Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey has attacked Tory Cabinet colleague Eric Pickles for blocking onshore wind farms despite being approved by councils.
In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Davey said the Local Government Secretary had come close to abusing his powers, which allows him to “call in” wind farm applications. The Lib Dems had rejected Tory plans for a cap on the number of onshore farms, which is now likely to feature in the Conservative manifesto.
“Mr Pickles took some powers to recover planning appeals from about June 2013,” Mr Davey said.
“The net effect of that is that, although investment is continuing, it is not continuing as fast as we had expected. He has these powers to intervene but he is getting close to abusing those powers.”
He added: “I am calling time on Mr Pickles on this one. By getting close to abusing his ministerial power he is trying to implement early their manifesto policy and we haven’t had the election yet.”
Mr Davey said the reason the Conservatives are trying to restrict onshore wind is that “the UKIP tail is wagging the Tory dog”, as Nigel Farage’s party fiercely opposes the technology.
Mr Pickles intervened to dismiss an appeal for a giant wind farm in Somerset. The scheme, beside a nature reserve at West Huntspill, for five 414ft wind turbines, was one of dozens of multiple turbine applications called in by the Secretary of State last year.
Mr Davey will make a defence of wind farms in his main stage conference speech today. He will also say he is pushing for more independent energy suppliers to end the dominance of the “Big Six”, and reveal how companies are improving the time it takes to switch supplier.
He is expected to say: “I can announce today that I am delivering on my promise to halve switching times this year. Every major energy firm is on schedule to deliver the faster switching I have demanded. And that’s why I want to keep backing the agents of real change in Britain’s energy markets – the small firms, innovating to win business.
“I’m proud that energy independents are supplying nearly eight times as many people as they were under Labour.
“And I want to see their market share grow more – to 30% or more by the end of the decade. That will mean lower energy bills and better customer service for people across Britain.
“And if we couple this radical shift to smaller suppliers, with a step change on energy efficiency.”
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