A major announcement this week from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy suggests that UK onshore wind will be making a comeback. What was the announcement, and what will be the implications for the energy industry, and the UK’s 2020 climate agenda ahead of COP26?
Back in 2016, David Cameron ruled that UK onshore wind farms could no longer apply for government subsidies, to the dismay of environmental and renewable energy campaigners. He also announced that local groups would be given a greater say in the planning process – effectively ensuring that no new onshore wind farms could be built.
But this week, the government dropped the ban on UK onshore wind companies being able to apply for subsidies to help build new farms. The Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme, taking place in 2021, will now allow onshore wind companies to bid for contracts to provide clean energy at a guaranteed price.
Wind farms – once perceived as “hated” by the government – now appear to be supported by 78% of the British public, according to recent polling.
Implications for energy industry
So far, the government has just started this process by opening a consultation. Local groups will continue to have the final say over the building of any onshore wind farms in their area. Indeed, The Guardian cites claims that “windfarm developers will need to comply with tough new proposals on community consent to qualify for the auction process”.
However, the announcement is expected to open up opportunities for the expansion of renewable energy projects across the board. In Scotland, Scottish Power is delighted at the new ruling, with plans to build 1000MW of wind and solar power. Chief executive Keith Anderson said: “Onshore wind is a crucial tool in tackling climate change – it’s cheap, it’s clean and it’s quick to build. As a responsible developer, we work hard to secure the support of local communities.”
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Implications for UK climate agenda
The Committee on Climate Change recently stated that the UK must quadruple renewable energy generation in order to reach net-zero by 2050, and today’s announcement appears to be a step in that direction.
RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Hugh McNeal said: “The government is pressing ahead with action to meet our net zero emissions target quickly and at lowest cost to consumers and businesses. Backing cheap renewables is a clear example of the practical action to tackle climate change that the public is demanding, and this will speed up the transition to a net zero economy.”
Alethea Warrington from climate change charity Possible commented: “As our cheapest source of clean energy, onshore wind is hugely popular with people in the UK, who understand that we need to use all the tools in the box to tackle the climate crisis.”
The Government has opened up its proposed UK onshore wind changes to public consultation. If you’re interested in responding to the consultation, online or via email, check it out here.