UK renewable chief admits England ‘not windy enough’ to sustain economically viable new wind farms

Renewable UKThe recently-appointed head of RenewableUK has said the prospects of building new wind turbine parcs in England are slim because the weather is not windy enough and because of the withdrawal of state subsidies.

Hugh McNeal, who quit a senior civil service job at DECC to take up the post of chief executive at Renewable UK, told the Sunday Telegraph that the industry could make the case for more onshore turbines in some parts of the UK, despite the withdrawal of subsidies.

But he said this would “almost certainly” not be in England, as the wind speeds were not high enough to make the projects economically viable without subsidy.

McNeal said: “Wind power is now the cheapest form of new generation in Britain.

“If plants can be built in places where people don’t object to them and if, as a result of that, over their whole lifetime the net impact on consumers against the alternatives is beneficial, I need to persuade people we should be doing that.”

Analysis of Government databases by the Renewable Energy Foundation suggests there is 425 megawatts of capacity in England in the planning system – although this is barely 10% of the amount of new wind-power in the planning pipeline in Scotland.

Keith Anderson, Chief Executive, Scottish Power Renewables, is reported to have agreed that new onshore wind in England would be “incredibly challenging” and instead suggested that ‘re-powering’ wind turbine parcs by installing more powerful turbines on already-approved sites could be economically viable.

Joan McAlpine, MSP
Joan McAlpine, MSP

Meanwhile, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has marked World Environment Day by reflecting on the major progress made by the SNP in government on renewable energy – and calling on the UK Government to reverse their position on cutting support for renewables.

While the SNP in government has met ambitious targets on energy – and set new targets of producing 100 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020 – the progress made by Scotland so far is being put at risk by the decision of the UK Government to cut support for renewables projects. 

McAlpine said: “World Environment Day is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the remarkable strides Scotland has made in producing clean, green energy and reducing our emissions – powering through our ambitious targets on energy, achieving 57.7% of electricity from renewables in 2015 and upping that ambition to 100% by 2020. 

“But while this progress is very welcome, we simply cannot allow Scotland’s potential to be held back by the actions of an out of touch Tory Government with an ideological objection to renewables. 

“Scotland has incredible opportunities to be a world leader in a range of renewable technologies which provide clean, sustainable power which we simply must capitalise on.

“It’s vital that the UK Government now take immediate steps to ensure that Scotland’s onshore wind sector gets the support it needs and deserves to allow the industry to continue to invest in jobs, create clean energy and tackle climate change.”

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