Government plans which could have halted the spread of large onshore wind farms in the region have been delayed, as the Conservatives seek to protect themselves from possible legal challenges.
The pledge to end subsidies for onshore wind energy projects was a key commitment in the Conservative election manifesto – alongside legislation to give local authorities more say over new developments.
It was welcomed by anti-turbine campaigners in Devon and Cornwall who saw it as an opportunity to preserve local landscapes and encourage smaller and offshore farms.
But while the Government was expected to begin implementing the pledge as early as next week, it is understood to have postponed its plans in response to a perceived legal threat from the renewables industry.
Hopes were raised that ending subsidies would be a priority for ministers when David Cameron referenced the policy in the Queen’s Speech.
It was mentioned alongside a new Energy Bill, which includes measures to devolve more decision-making powers to planning authorities.
The first stage of the Conservatives’ plans involve shutting down a subsidy scheme called the Renewables Obligation a year early in 2016.
But according to the Telegraph, announcements scheduled for this week have been put back while officials work to make the scheme less “vulnerable”.
Peter Waller, of the Turbine Action Group, expressed disappointment at the delay.
“We are seeing a rush of applications already to make sure they qualify for the Feed In Tariff (FIT) and this will only be to their advantage,” he said.
“If wind energy is the answer to our energy problem then let it stand on its own, pay them for what they produce.
“Instead of ruining the Cornish countryside with these industrial units make it compulsory that every new house built has to have solar panels installed this way we would not be industrialising Cornwall.
“It really is time that Cornwall stop all commercial renewable schemes until an open and transparent debate has taken place.”
The news of the postponement comes just days after members of the renewables sector voiced their objection to subsidy proposals in an article for the Guardian.
Writing on June 1, Marcus Trinick, a member of Renwables UK, warned ministers not to “destroy” the industry by interfering with state aid.
He also cited previous Government attempts to change the rules for solar power – which he said led to a “perfect storm of legal challenges” – and urged ministers to enter into a dialogue with the industry before they act.
Merlin Hyman, chief executive of RegenSW suggested the Government’s plans penalised people who had already made investments in projects.
“That’s bad policy,” he said. “The Government has sent out some clear signals over the years encouraging the appropriate development of onshore wind. If the new Government wants to make changes to that, it needs to do so in a steady way that gives people time to adapt.
“As an industry, we are against subsidies as a long-term measure, but change needs to be implemented in the right way.”
However, despite the uncertainty, North Cornwall Conservative MP Scott Mann said he believed ministers were “fully committed” to delivering on the manifesto.
“I have made it known for some time that I am not a supporter of new large wind turbines in North Cornwall,” he said. “I have also stood shoulder to shoulder with communities who are trying to stop the negative impacts wind turbines have on the landscape.
“I believe that these are small matters that will be resolved soon enough, and the onshore subsidy will be removed in the very near future.”
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