A leading Scottish renewables energy company has called for new UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd to provide greater clarity – and dispel continued confusion – surrounding the proposed Conservative majority-government ban on onshore wind subsidies.
Following her taking over the reins from wind advocate Ed Davey, Rudd has spoken of her commitment to securing a binding worldwide carbon agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in late 2015, calling it “one of the most important things I am going to do this year”.
Rudd has also reiterated the Conservative’s pre-election soundbite that they will withdraw subsidies for onshore wind farms and give local communities more power to block proposed wind farms.
Paul McCullagh, Chief Executive of Glasgow-based turbine developer Urban Wind, said: “Amber Rudd’s initial priorities for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) seem to be completely at odds with each other.
“While she must be commended for showing a real commitment to securing a global climate deal, to follow this by suggesting the complete withdrawal of support for one of our cheapest and deployable green energy technologies seems totally self-defeating.
“We are now approaching a situation where a policy that provided a good pre-election soundbite for a Conservative party – desperately trying to shore up their support against a then growing UKIP threat – is now in serious danger of becoming a hastily rushed-through reality, despite an apparent serious lack of consideration into what impact this ban will actually have on the sector as a whole.
“The lack of clarity over what exactly constitutes an onshore ‘wind farm’ as distinctly opposed to distributed wind continues, despite repeated calls from leading industry figures to provide this urgently needed explanation. The situation is beginning to threaten a descent into farce, as the UK’s significant and growing Feed-In Tariff qualified wind industry is left with a completely unclear future.”
“There is a distinct difference between the large scale ‘wind farm’ developments seen in the UK (which are recognised as being key factors in helping the UK achieve its necessary carbon reduction targets) and ‘farm wind’ which offers smaller scale, geographically distributed wind development – governed by the local planning decision-making process and often supported by the local community. “
Distributed wind provides key renewable energy solutions to Farmers; Communities and Businesses who need to reduce their rising and unpredictable energy costs; reduce their carbon footprint and provide mitigation to surety of electricity supply concerns.
McCullagh added: “This requires funding support and is only sustainable if there is a transparent and consistent investor remuneration offerings on place – such as Feed In Tariffs. Without this this opportunity will be lost.
DECC forecast in 2011 that the UK would need to replace more than a fifth of its current fossil fuel-powered generation by 2020 to ensure we meet the UK’s binding carbon reduction targets.
It also identified risks to nationwide supply, including the danger of unexpected nuclear outages and the UK’s position as a net gas importer, vulnerable to the vagaries of the volatile global energy market.
McCullagh continued: “Onshore wind is currently the technology closest to achieving price parity with the cheapest fossil fuel generation methods, and is set to overtake both coal and gas turbine as the cheapest method of energy generation available to us by 2020.
“Therefore, it has an incredibly important role to play in achieving the carbon reduction targets that Ms Rudd has identified as so crucial.
“An ill-thought through and rushed ban on all onshore developments would mean that the entire roadmap set out to ensure that we are able to meet these legally-binding reduction targets would need to be completely rewritten. We urge for greater consultation on this matter.
“It would also severely impact key inward investment to the UK in this sector, as well as put at risk the significant employment and UK supply chain opportunities that this sector brings. This would leave Britain exposed to the growing risk of a hike in energy prices to fund more expensive generation options and to address shortage of supply issues.
“Even more ominously, we could face the real possibility of failing to hit these targets if subsidies are removed and causing irreversible damage to our climate as a result.”