UK Conservatives eye onshore axe

The UK wind industry again accused the country’s Conservative Party of threatening investment in the sector, after it confirmed plans to end support for new onshore wind farms.

The Conservatives – currently governing in coalition with the smaller Liberal Democrat party – will seek to end onshore wind support for projects not already consented if it wins the next national election in 2015, said energy minister Michael Fallon.

Fallon said: "We now have enough bill payer-funded onshore wind in the pipeline to meet our renewable energy commitments and there's no requirement for any more.”

The minister also said the Conservatives would change planning rules to give local authorities “the decisive say” on any new wind projects.

The UK currently has a total of about 15GW of onshore wind built or in the pipeline. About 7.2GW is operating.

A tougher stance over onshore wind by the party ahead of the next election has been widely trailed in the British media for some weeks, as the Conservatives seek to stop voters leaving for the renewables-sceptic, pro-fracking UK Independence Party.

The issue has provoked open rifts with its Coalition partners in the Liberal Democrats, who are far more supportive of renewables. The UK’s Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey said today that the Conservative plan would be “disastrous for business and jobs”.

The UK’s main opposition Labour Party has also indicated it favours continued support for onshore wind.

Industry body RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said of Fallon’s comments: “We urge the Conservative Party to work with the industry on cost reduction, and stop making arbitrary comments which threaten investment in all energy types.”

RenewableUK also pointed to the apparent paradox of Conservative policymakers citing public opposition to onshore wind, when a string of opinion polls have shown a healthy majority supports the renewable source over alternatives such as shale gas.