Banks Group launches Judicial Review against CfD scheme

Property and energy developer, the Banks Group has been revealed as the firm behind a recent application for a Judicial Review against the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme. The CfD scheme aims to incentivise renewable energy investment by providing grants to help with the stability and predictability of future revenue streams. Currently, renewable energy projects like offshore wind farms, hydropower dams and biomass processors are allowed to compete for these contracts. The Judicial Review claims that the scheme’s exclusion of onshore wind projects does not comply with UK or EU law. When the CfD scheme was proposed in 2014, it was required by EU law to comply with State Aid rules, which protect the competitiveness of countries against governments who may favour certain companies or projects over others. However, while the rules do not allow for explicit support of particular technologies, they do allow auctions in which only particular technologies are allowed to be bid on.

A CfD auction is currently ongoing, and has continued the exclusion of onshore wind applications. The Judicial Review launched by the Banks Group adds to the increasing pressure on the Energy Minister and the Prime Minister to allow onshore wind projects to compete for finance. A number of energy companies and environmental unions and organisations sent a letter to the Energy minister, reported on here, urging him to allow onshore wind projects to compete for CfDs, while a group of 157 Members of Parliament sent a letter to the Prime Minister, reported on here, with similar requests.

The review has so far caused delays to the auction process and concern for offshore wind developers who prefer less competition. The bidding deadline has been extended to 29 August.

With onshore wind farm production costs lower than those of other renewable energy sources, and surveys showing increasingly positive public opinion of onshore wind, the Government is receiving significant pressure from multiple fronts. The Government has yet to respond to the Judicial Review, or the previous letters.

Despite the attempt to secure a spot in the CfD auction for renewable onshore wind, the Banks Group has not always been primarily concerned with sustainability. In 2015 the Banks Group engaged in another legal battle with former Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, when he decided not to allow the firm to submit plans for a coal mine at Druridge Bay. The Banks Group has argued that mining coal in the UK produces less greenhouse gasses than importing it from overseas, though environmental activist groups like Friends of the Earth have argued that the UK does not need to produce more coal as coal mining operations are already set to shut down by 2025. The legal case is still ongoing, as the court has yet to make a final determination on the matter.

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