Energy Minister under pressure to lift onshore wind financing ban

Kwasi Kwarteng, the new Energy Minister, has received a letter from a large group of businesses and organisations who are urging him to allow the onshore wind industry to compete for Contracts for Difference, the government’s contracting scheme for supporting low-carbon electricity generation. The letter has been signed by some of the UK’s largest energy providers, including EDF Renewables UK, SSE Renewables, Siemens Gamesa, and numerous others. The letter has also been backed by numerous organisations and trade unions including Prospect, the National Farmers’ Union and the National infrastructure Commission. This group has come together to encourage the Energy Minister to lift the ban on government financial support for onshore wind projects, imposed in 2015. This measure was initially implemented to give communities the final say over new wind projects, but with a reported 94 per cent decrease in applications for new wind projects, many have become frustrated with the lack of support for the renewable energy source.

The signatories are keen to open opportunities in the wind farming industry, as onshore wind farming is currently the cheapest renewable energy source to produce in the UK. The necessary infrastructure for transmitting electricity from onshore wind farms is much cheaper and easier to install than that of offshore projects like Hornsea Two, the planned offshore wind farm off the coast of Yorkshire, reported on here. The letter encourages the Energy Minister to consider the lower costs to both businesses and consumers that may result from continued investments in the sector.

Public support for the development of onshore wind is currently at a record-high. The letter addresses statistics from the government’s Public Attitudes Tracker which show 79 per cent public support for onshore wind farms. “Clean onshore wind power is popular in every single constituency in the UK, is our cheapest energy source bar none, and is a solution to the pressing climate crisis” says 10:10, an environmental campaign group. The letter predicts that in the event that the block on wind energy subsidies is lifted, 35GW of onshore wind could be deployed by 2035, bringing the UK closer to its net-zero emissions goal.

The development of these wind farms is also predicted to create new jobs in the industry, as infrastructure, management and upkeep will all require skilled labour. As jobs in sectors like the UK’s coal industry dwindle away due to the closures of coal-fired power plants like Aberthaw B (reported on here), an increase in government support and applications for new wind farm contracts will be useful for job creation.

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