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Onshore wind critic Leadsom is new UK energy secretary

Former energy minister who said benefits of onshore turbines 'hugely exaggerated' to lead policy-making

The UK has a new energy secretary after Andrea Leadsom was appointed by incoming UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, putting a high-profile critic of onshore wind in charge of national policy.

Leadsom will lead Britain’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy under a mass clear-out by Johnson at the top of the UK government that included her predecessor, Greg Clark. Her main qualification for the job may have been her status as a loyal ‘Brexiteer’ like others in the governing Conservative Party promoted under Johnson – and unlike the pro-EU Clark.

Leadsom is familiar to the UK sector after completing a stint as energy minister in 2015 and 2016, when she helped steer through legislation taking onshore wind out of the national support mechanism, and championed the role of fracking-based gas extraction.

She has previously claimed turbines are inefficient and have an unacceptable impact in local communities.

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In 2011 Leadsom wrote in a highly-critical article for the Conservative Home think-tank: "Whilst I accept that onshore wind has its part to play in generating renewable energy, I conclude that the benefits of onshore wind have been hugely exaggerated by the developers who stand to make huge sums from the taxpayer incentives."

She added: "It used to be the case that criticising onshore wind energy led to being denounced as a ‘climate change denier’. I sincerely hope those days are over ..."

Leadsom has, however, previously been supportive of the UK’s championing of the offshore wind sector.

The UK renewables sector has spent the last few years issuing strident calls for onshore wind to be given a restored route to market under the contract-for-difference (CfD) mechanism, claiming it makes no sense to exclude the cheapest source of zero-carbon power when the nation is chasing ambitious decarbonisation goals.

When Johnson emerged as Theresa May’s successor earlier this week, industry group RenewableUK’s CEO Hugh McNeal said: “ We look forward to working with the new Prime Minister to achieve our world-leading net zero target and hope that he will continue to be a champion the for UK’s offshore wind sector, as he was in his campaign.

“The new government must take action to put us on course to reach net zero emissions by establishing a new strategy for onshore wind and support for our innovative renewable technologies like floating wind, wave and tidal stream.”

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