We are not meeting our climate change targets – the UK is way off track to meet the fourth and fifth carbon emissions budgets of the Climate Change Act. Onshore wind energy developments are an essential part of solving this problem.
Happily, onshore wind developments are now the cheapest form of new energy and the UK is the windiest country in Europe. It is also overwhelmingly popular: Government statistics show that 76% of people now support onshore wind – ten times the proportion opposed. In addition to this, two thirds of people are supportive of turbines within five miles of their home.
So the government are doing all they can to enable this cheap, popular and abundant renewable energy source, right?
In 2015 the government changed the planning rules (the rules governing changes to or proposed new buildings or structures in a local area). The change was subtle but the result powerful: an effective moratorium on any new onshore wind developments in England. This is because it created the possibility that, if a very small number of local people, or even one single local person, objected to a proposed onshore wind development then the proposal would be rejected.
The effect has been profound – a blocking of on any new onshore wind developments because there is no point in taking on the costly and burdensome task of putting together a planning application for new onshore wind turbines and submitting it because of the very real possibility that a very small local group of people, or even one single local person, would object and cause the entire application to fail.
The government has also blocked onshore wind energy from competing for the state financing system called Contracts for Difference. These contracts are bid for by low-carbon and renewable energy generators they effectively give those energy generators a fixed purchase price for their energy. When the market price is below this fixed price, the government makes top up payments to those energy generators and when the market price is above this fixed price, the government receives the difference in payments.
This state financing system works well because it significantly helps to make proposed low-carbon and renewable energy developments financially viable. Yet onshore wind has been singled out and blocked from accessing it, unlike all other forms of low-carbon and renewable energy.
To remove the planning blockage the planning rules need to be changed so that applications for onshore wind developments in England are treated in the same way as any other application for renewable and low carbon energy.
Concerns over where new turbines are proposed should be addressed through local democratic decision making. Applications for new wind turbines should face a fair and reasonable local planning process and be treated in the same way as other renewable or low-carbon energy.
To remove the state financing blockage is even more simple: onshore wind energy should be included once again in the bidding process alongside all other forms of low-carbon and renewable energy.
Power for People has drafted the changes needed and we are organising an open, cross-party letter from MPs to the Prime Minister. The letter calls for:
Amendments to Planning Rules
The planning rules to be amended so that applications for smaller-scale* onshore wind developments in England are treated in the same way as any other application for renewable and low carbon energy.
Access to Energy Market Auctions
Onshore wind to be allowed to compete in Contracts for Difference electricity market auctions. These have been described as subsidies but they are more like loans that help make new onshore wind developments financially viable.
* Government policy defines smaller-scale as up to five megawatts, which is usually two or three turbines
The government has unblocked state financing for onshore wind! This is a massive win but it only satisfies one of our campaign asks. We will keep campaigning to remove the planning rules moratorium, so that onshore wind’s huge potential in England can be realised.
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