Boris Johnson’s Cabinet is understood to be split on plans to allow more onshore windfarms in England, in a bid to reduce dependence on hydrocarbons and drive down energy costs in the UK, following revelations in i
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng revealed exclusively to i on Monday that the Government is looking to ease planning controls to make it easier to build new onshore windfarms.
Doing so would lead to cheaper electricity for consumers, at a time households are feeling the pinch due to soaring inflation, rising energy bills and the upcoming rise in National Insurance contributions.
However, not all ministers are in favour of the proposals, the BBC reports, despite the Prime Minister’s eagerness to produce more energy in the UK and reduce the country’s reliance on Russian fuel.
In 2015, then-Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to give local councils tougher powers over whether onshore wind turbines were built in their areas – as Tory heartlands were opposed to expanding onshore windfarms.
But Mr Kwarteng believes the mood has shifted since then, especially in response to Vladimir Putin’s decision to wage war in Ukraine.
“I think the Prime Minister has been very clear that onshore wind has got to be part of the mix and we’ve got to look at planning,” Mr Kwarteng told i. “We are not saying we are going to scrap all planning rules and all of these things have got to be in line with community support.”
“The argument about onshore wind in 2015 was a historic argument even before we committed to net-zero and the circumstances today with Putin, Russia, Saudi Arabia, all of those things mean that we’ve got to have more energy independence and I think onshore renewables are absolutely part of that.”
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting – the last before the energy strategy is due to be unveiled – he said: “We are not saying we are going to scrap all planning rules and all of these things have got to be in line with community support.”
Following his remarks the BBC reported that several ministers are opposed to relaxing onshore wind, with one saying there was “very, very little” support for the idea.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack is among those opposed to expanding onshore wind, but he is understood to back offshore developments.
In the past, Tory activists and local campaigners have criticised the visual impact of them on the landscape.
Other ministers indicated their scepticism at the proposal, rather than outright opposition to more onshore wind.
Onshore windfarms are cheaper and easier to build than doing so at sea, where they won’t be an eyesore.
It comes as Mr Johnson aims to shift the UK towards renewable energy sources to reduce the UK’s reliance on Russian fuel.
In an article for the Daily Telegraph early this month, the Prime Minister pledged a significant expansion of domestic green energy, such as wind, solar and tidal power, and also outlined his commitment to nuclear power.
He also called on Western allies to “take back control” of their energy supplies and end its “addiction” to Russian oil and gas.
Ministers are due to outline the Government’s full plan next week when the new energy security strategy is unveiled.
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