Northumberland wind farm campaigners have reacted with delight at news the Government plans to slash a key onshore subsidy – but others fear the move may push up energy bills.
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has unveiled plans to end a subsidies scheme for new wind onshore wind farms a year early.
It comes after numerous schemes in rural Northumberland were given planning permission over the last Parliament, despite campaigns against them from villagers.
Environmental campaigners have criticised the Conservatives for attacking the cheapest form of clean energy, while saying they want to cut carbon. They claim the policy will push up energy bills, as support will go to more expensive forms of low-carbon energy to meet targets to tackle climate change.
Industry figures, meanwhile, say thousands of jobs and millions of pounds of investment across the UK will be left hanging in the balance.
Industry body RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said the decision sent a “chilling signal” to all investors right across the UK’s infrastructure sectors, and would inevitably mean fuel bills go up.
“It means this Government is quite prepared to pull the rug from under the feet of investors even when this country desperately needs to clean up the way we generate electricity at the lowest possible cost – which is onshore wind,” she said.
The North East Chamber of Commerce agreed the announcement had been quick. Rachel Anderson, NECC head of policy and representation, said: “Such a dramatic change is not unexpected due to announcements made at the launch of the Conservative manifesto, although we are concerned at the speed of the implementation of this policy.
“We welcome the continuing commitment to off-shore wind development and would hope that any changes will not affect companies engage in the renewables sector in the region.”
But Andrew Joicey, a farmer from Cornhill and a long-time opponent of onshore windfarms, welcomed the news and said keeping onshore subsidies is more likely to hit energy bills.
He said: “This is long overdue and very necessary. It is costing electricity consumers an enormous amount of money and if it isn’t curtailed then it will cost us even more in the future.
“The subsidy has been overgenerous since it was introduced in 2002 and has been taken advantage of by investors, many of them foreign, and we have more than enough renewables in our country to satisfy the arbitrary targets that have been set.
“Communities throughout the UK should be pleased.”
Under the plans, the “renewables obligation” scheme, through which subsidies are paid to renewable schemes, will be closed to onshore wind farms from April 1, 2016.
There will be a grace period offered to projects already in the pipeline. This could still allow thousands more turbines to be constructed.
The renewables obligation has been closed to large scale solar farms, amid concerns that the technology was a blight on the landscape, and is due to close to all new renewables schemes in 2017.
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