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Tory wind wars

Ahead of May’s general election, the Conservative Party are at odds on their energy policy, not least with regards their bête noire: onshore wind.

On the one hand, Tory MPs are demanding that 15 proposed onshore wind farms are cancelled post the election whilst Tory grandee Tim Yeo, Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change select committee has said that continuing to oppose onshore wind would prove to be “an expensive mistake”.

The 15 wind projects, due for delivery between 2016 and 2019, were approved by Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey

Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris, a member of the public accounts committee (PAC), on record as a wind sceptic, claimed:

“This is a rush to milk subsidy while subsidy still exists. A new Conservative government would not subsidise onshore wind in the future. This subsidises an expensive energy source which people then pay over the odds for.

“It is not green — you need gas- powered turbines — and it solves none of our renewable or green issues. It’s just a big white elephant.

“The Spanish government cut all subsidy to wind projects in that country and it would not surprise me if we had to go down that route in a couple of months time.”

Whilst Heaton-Harris’ claims of non-green-ness need to be taken with a pinch of carbon another Conservative member outlined the core party attitude to wind saying:

“Conservative party policy is to have no onshore wind at all. The department can do what they want — if there’s no subsidy they aren’t going to be built.”

But Liberal Democrat Minister Ed Davey countered with:

“Onshore wind and solar prices are clearly leading the way for the cheapest green energy out there, and the Conservatives now have some serious questions to answer.

“If they want to tackle climate change and do it through bringing on more green energy, then why press the stop button on onshore wind? An end to onshore wind means that you are either saying no to tackling climate change, or you are having to plug the gap with a more expensive form of energy that will put everyone’s energy bills up.”

Davey has also given the go-ahead for the construction of the world’s biggest offshore wind farm on the Dogger Bank. At 2.3GW it will only be exceeded by Drax’s coal and biomass fired plant in South Yorkshire.

The Creyke Beck A and B wind projects at Dogger Bank, due for completion in 2022, will house 400 wind turbines off the coast of Humberside.

Davey welcomed the decision saying:

“This development has the potential to support hundreds of green jobs and power up to 2 million homes.

“Making the most of Britain’s home-grown energy is creating jobs and businesses in the UK, getting the best deal for consumers and reducing our reliance on foreign imports. Wind power is vital to this plan, with £14.5 billion invested since 2010 into an industry which supports 35,400 jobs.”

But the Tory party aren’t the only ones with polarised views on wind energy, indeed the contending factions in the party mirror the opinion of the public at large with research commissioned by RenewableUK revealing that the average belief of the level of subsidy for wind energy adds 20% to an energy bill when the reality is less than 2%.

Revealing the findings, RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said:

“Onshore and offshore wind provided nearly 10 per cent of the UK’s total electricity supply in 2014… The more that people become aware of facts like this, the more they tend to support wind energy as the one of our most important power sources.”

With the public seemingly as confused about the benefits, or otherwise, of wind energy, as the Conservative Party, there is clearly plenty of work to do in order for wind to remain a key plank in future energy policy.