Government set to reverse Cameron-era ban on onshore wind farm subsidies
The Government is set to reverse a ban on onshore wind farm subsidies brought in under David Cameron.
Officials have told climate campaigners that onshore wind farms would soon be able to bid for subsidies from the Government.
The U-turn comes as ministers face increasing pressure to set out how the UK will hit its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Land-based wind turbines have long been unpopular with grassroots Conservatives, leading the then-Prime Minister Mr Cameron to say he wanted to “rid” the countryside of the “unsightly” structures in 2015.
Onshore wind was officially blocked from bidding for financial support available to other forms of renewable energy in 2016, leading to a 94% decline in the number of new projects up to 2019.
Environmental groups have consistently protested against the ban, arguing that onshore wind is the cheapest new form of electric energy and has widespread public support.
According to The Guardian, Energy Secretary Alok Sharma is expected to say that ending the UK’s contribution to the climate crisis “means making the most of every technology available, and that includes backing more onshore wind and solar projects”.
This will be achieved “in a way that works for everyone, listening to local communities and giving them an effective voice in decisions that affect them”.
The announcement was welcomed by environmental groups such as Possible, which has been campaigning for an end to the blocks on onshore wind since 2016.
“After years of campaigning, today we can finally celebrate the UK’s cheapest new energy source - onshore wind - being brought in from the cold,” said Alethea Warrington, renewable energy campaigner at Possible.
“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.
“It’s now up to communities, local governments and developers to make the most of this urgent opportunity.”
Meanwhile Greenpeace dubbed the announcement “great news for our climate”, but added that more needed to be done ahead of November’s COP26 climate summit.
Its Executive Director, John Sauven, said: “The government now needs to engage with local communities in order to get large amounts of onshore wind and solar off the ground.
“Leading by example, by tripling the UK’s wind and solar by 2030, is a prerequisite for successful UK leadership at this year’s global climate talks in Glasgow.
“This is an important measure to clean up our power system, but action is needed across the board, including delivery of the government's offshore wind target and upgrading the grid for electric vehicles and storage."
Tory MPs have also backed the move, including members of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN).
Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake said “now is the right time” to develop onshore energy “where there is local support”.
He continued: “I welcome the Government’s decision to hold a new auction for onshore wind and solar.
“Public opinion has shifted decisively in favour of renewable energy in recent years, with CEN polling showing that 74% of Conservative voters back onshore wind.”
“The changes that were made to the planning system in England in 2015 ensure that onshore wind cannot be built without the support of local communities.”
Responding to the announcement, Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change Dr Alan Whitehead said: “After years of Labour calling on the Government to remove its ban on funding onshore wind and solar, it has finally relented.
“We need every tool at our disposal to fight the climate crisis, but for years the government’s obstinate resistance has forced us to fight with one hand behind our back.
“We now need to catch up on five lost years, remove the planning barriers to onshore wind energy this government put in place and look at the eye watering business rates they put on solar energy.”