April 6, 2022

Anti-onshore wind campaigner put in charge of council’s ‘green masterplan’

Lincolnshire county council’s Colin Davie has vowed to ‘restart old fights’ and oppose new onshore wind | Helena Horton, Environment reporter | The Guardian | Tue 5 Apr 2022 | www.theguardian.com

A trustee of a group that campaigns against onshore renewable energy has been put in charge of a county council’s “green masterplan”, the Guardian can reveal.

Colin Davie, who is the executive councillor for economic development, environment and planning at Lincolnshire county council, is also one of three trustees of the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF). He has recently vowed to “restart old fights” and oppose new onshore wind.

The REF, once chaired by the TV presenter Noel Edmonds, has for years argued against onshore wind, receiving much coverage in the rightwing press. It was founded in 2004 to fight against what it described as the “grotesque political push” for wind energy in the UK. They secured victories during previous Conservative governments, culminating when David Cameron banned onshore wind subsidies in 2016.

Now it appears its members are readying for a fierce fight as new onshore renewables become a possibility again.

In Lincolnshire the “green masterplan” drafted by Davie, a Conservative councillor, has been criticised as “unimaginative”, as it keeps the 2050 carbon neutral goal but contains minimal measures such as switching to LED streetlights and reducing paper use. There are no mentions of large-scale renewable energy.

The prospect of new large-scale onshore renewables has been raised due to the energy crisis, with the government looking at allowing schemes as part of its imminent energy plan. The Guardian understands that local approval would probably be needed before any onshore scheme is greenlit.

In Lincolnshire the people deciding on whether a scheme would have “local approval” include Davie.

Last week, Davie was invited on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to give his views on windfarms. He vowed onshore wind would not come to Lincolnshire, saying: “Onshore wind is not the answer.” He added: “We will not be changing our view on that, we have a resolution of the council and that I suspect is not going to be changed by anything the government might want to do. We need a new balanced energy policy that takes into account the intermittence of renewables.”

Two trustees of the REF, Michael Kelly and John Constable, in February wrote to the Financial Times to complain about Tory MPs who were calling for more floating wind power.

The REF says it is impartial and relies on “superb data” for its views on wind and solar farms. But it has strong links to a group accused of climate science scepticism, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), started by the former Tory chancellor Nigel Lawson. Members of the GWPF, including Lawson, have denied global heating is a problem.

Kelly has a position on the board of the GWPF. Constable has been quoted as a REF spokesperson and was previously its director of policy and research. Constable answered the Guardian’s questions for this article on behalf of the REF.

Alethea Warrington, a campaigner at the climate charity Possible, said: “Homegrown onshore wind is our cheapest energy source, clean, and could be built tomorrow. Dragging heels now means only one thing – more reliance on dirty, volatile fossil fuels and unpalatable regimes. With eight in 10 people supporting it, it’s past time the government ended its onshore wind ban to allow communities to benefit from low-cost, secure and reliable energy.”

Residents have raised their concerns about the lack of ambition in Lincolnshire’s climate plans – and the fact it was drafted by someone who opposes onshore renewable energy.

Anna Marie Roos, a professor of the history of science and medicine at the University of Lincoln, has written to the local MP Victoria Atkins and lodged a complaint with the council.

Roos said: “Tellingly, there is no mention of any plans to promote large-scale renewable energy [in the green masterplan], such as through offshore windfarms, or large solar arrays. The Lincolnite article reveals that Mr Davie is actively against windfarms, a stance that the REF promotes. This does not seem to be an impartial exercise of his responsibilities in the interests of local community or the avoidance of a conflict of interest, particularly when that interest is not clear due to the misleading nature of the name of the REF for whom Mr Davie is a trustee.”

Davie told the Guardian he was “proud” of his role at the charity, which he noted was a registered interest, and added that he had been supportive of offshore wind locally.

He said: “All forms of renewables, however, suffer from significant technical defects making them inherently expensive as a means of reducing emissions. They also have significant local environmental downsides. It is not easy to hide 150-metre high turbines in the flat, open and big sky landscapes which drive our visitors’ and residents’ love for Lincolnshire. All developments should be assessed on a case by case basis and the community should have maintained their right to say no to a development that affects them.

“Lincolnshire is well on course with its carbon reduction agenda and with our wider leadership role on this issue. However, this is our place, we should be allowed to determine how we meet our goals and the wider ambitions of government without forcing communities to take things they do not want.”

Constable, on behalf of the REF, said the group had no direct relationship with Lincolnshire county council.

He said the REF’s policies were evidence-based and they had no blanket policy on renewables, adding: “The emissions abatement cost of renewables generally, and wind and solar in particular, is very high. This is especially true when system management costs are taken into account. Indeed, these renewables abatement costs exceed by a large margin the central estimates of the social cost of carbon, indicating that the harm to human welfare from achieving abatement via renewables exceeds that of climate change, which would be irrational. This suggests that the role of large-scale renewable schemes in any net zero delivery plan will be limited.”

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2022/04/06/anti-onshore-wind-campaigner-put-in-charge-of-councils-green-masterplan/