Ministers have performed a dramatic U-turn on the future of onshore wind farms and announced that they will free up public cash to help Britain cut greenhouse gases.
Onshore wind turbines were blocked from receiving public funds in 2016 – after then Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to get rid of the ‘unsightly structures’.
The measure was criticised as it made it much harder for turbines, the cheapest form of clean energy, to compete with other types of power.
But now the Government is under pressure to meet a target to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050 – so more turbines will be needed. As a result, the Government has said that onshore wind and solar can take part in low-carbon power auctions – where energy contracts are awarded after competitive bids.
Energy Secretary Alok Sharma said ending the UK’s contribution to the climate crisis ‘means making the UK a world leader in renewable energy.
‘We are determined to do that in a way that works for everyone, listening to local communities and giving them an effective voice in decisions that affect them.’
The U-turn comes just days after the Government indicated it would not appeal against a court ruling blocking a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Alethea Warrington, of climate change charity Possible, said: ‘After years of campaigning, today we can finally celebrate the UK’s cheapest new energy source, onshore wind, being brought in from the cold.’
Killing off funding for wind farms led to a slump in new ones being built. In 2019, 23 new onshore farms were created, with all but one having secured subsidy from before the scheme was closed. This compares to 2014, when 400 onshore wind projects came on stream.
In another turnaround, the Government announced a moratorium in fracking in 2019 – after Mr Cameron had urged the UK ‘to get behind fracking’. The Government will also announce that solar power projects can apply for subsidies.
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