By DARA BUTTERFIELD
The head of Britain’s biggest renewable energy group last night voiced concerns over the UK reaching climate targets without onshore wind playing a large role – as well as how the cuts could threaten investment by reducing confidence throughout the renewables sector – following the government decision to end subsidies to onshore wind farms.
Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive, Renewable Energy Association, said: “If the government is to ensure we meet our climate targets in the most cost effective way, it is hard to think of a way we can achieve that without onshore wind, solar PV, biomass power and the renewable heat incentive playing large roles.
“Key decisions to all of these technologies are being made in the next year, and investors need confidence, as does the industry, if our members are going to keep their side of the bargain in driving down costs.
“We share <British energy minister> Amber Rudd’s goal in getting renewables such as solar to grid parity, but constant piecemeal changes could harm this and add on costs through higher financing and risk.”
The Renewable Energy Association represents renewable energy producers and promotes the use of all forms of renewable energy in the UK across power, heat, transport and renewable gas. It is the largest renewable energy trade association in the UK, with approximately 750 members – ranging from major multinationals to sole traders.
Meanwhile – like the Scottish Energy Association – Renewable UK has urged the Government to reconsider the planned withdrawal of onshore wind subsidies. The body has said that the move leaves thousands of British jobs and millions of pounds worth of investment hanging in the balance and has jeopardised the security of the UK’s future clean energy supplies.
Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive, RenewableUK, said: “The Government’s decision to end prematurely financial support for onshore wind sends a chilling signal not just to the renewable energy industry, but to all investors right across the UK’s infrastructure sectors.
“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.
“People’s fuel bills will increase directly as a result of this Government’s actions. If Government was really serious about ending subsidy it should be working with industry to help us bring costs down, not slamming the door on the lowest cost option.
“Ministers are out of step with the public, as two-thirds of people in the UK consistently support onshore wind. Meanwhile the Government is bending over backwards to encourage fracking, even though less than a quarter of the public supports it.
“We are calling for the Energy Secretary to hold immediate talks with the wind industry so that the impact of these cuts can be managed, or at least be reduced. We note that the Government is allowing some flexibility – so-called “grace periods” – to allow projects where significant investment commitments have already been made in good faith to proceed as planned – but this still means that many much-needed projects will be lost unless the cut-off points for financial support are reviewed and extended.”
The body has also stated that senior economists in the sector have calculated that bill payers could end up paying £3 billion more because of commitments to meet binding targets after curtailing onshore wind – the current cheapest technology.
It has been estimated that 19,000 people owe their livelihoods to the UK’s onshore wind industry, and that this could have increased to more than 37,000 by 2023 if Government policy had remained supportive.