What now for onshore wind?

Wind turbinesLast week the Government emphasised how it wants to ensure local councils deal with fracking applications within the 16-week time limit, or risk having the decision taken by ministers in Whitehall. There is no doubt that the Government is very much in favour of fracking. When it comes to wind, however, the message is very different.

The Government has pushed responsibility for wind farms to local authorities, with no such pressure to stick to time frames, and the Conservative Party manifesto offers the reasons for this:

‘Onshore wind now makes a meaningful contribution to our energy mix and has been part of the necessary increase in renewable capacity. Onshore windfarms often fail to win public support, however, and are unable by themselves to provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires.’

Any significant development is likely to attract local opposition but a new independent poll, commissioned by Good Energy, asked 2,000 adults questions on renewable energy and found 59% support and just 8% object to onshore wind farms – much better statistics than the latest surveys on fracking, where applications have also come up against strong local opposition.

The main issue is that this Government does not like subsidies, and onshore wind power has been heavily subsidised for a significantly long time, but is now classed as a ‘mature technology’. The Government’s rhetoric about climate change appears genuine, but it is also clear to see that it believes wind power should be able to stand on its own two feet. If the industry were able to do this, it’s possible to envisage the Government threatening to fast-track wind farm applications in the future.

The Government is clearly taking a gamble that onshore wind can survive on its own, without subsidies. Depending on your view of climate change, the odds of this strategy are the same but the wager is bigger, and in some cases too big to be worth the gamble. For the Government, it simply believes the onshore wind power industry can, and should, function just fine on its own.

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