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New UK government under pressure to embrace onshore wind

Leading wind industry players, including Vestas and Siemens Gamesa, make joint plea to new energy minister to remove roadblocks to nation's cheapest form of new power

Leading wind developers, investors, suppliers and contractors — including Vestas, Siemens Gamesa, SSE, Scottish Power, EDF, Vattenfall, Innogy, Statkraft and RES Group — have joined forces to urge the UK government to change tack on onshore wind.

Onshore wind installations have ground to a near-standstill in England and Wales since 2015 when subsidies were withdrawn and the government made it easier for local communities to veto projects.

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In a letter to the new energy minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, company bosses point out that onshore wind is the cheapest form of power in the UK and will be vital if the country is to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050, as enshrined in recent legislation.

“Thanks in part to a rapid fall in costs, new onshore wind capacity can now be delivered in a post-subsidy environment. However, a lack of supportive government policies for onshore wind means that there is a real prospect this low-cost, low-carbon power source may not be deployed at the scale required to meet net zero at least cost — 35GW by 2035.”

The letter then makes a plea to the Conservative Party’s pro-business credentials and recent vows to cut electricity bills: “Further deployment of onshore wind will support 31,000 high-value jobs across the country; and increase investment in the UK supply chain which could then deliver £360m [$438m] a year in exports”.

“Further deployment of onshore wind could provide a 7% reduction in electricity costs, saving households £50 a year.”

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The changes to wind policy in 2015 were largely seen as a result of not-in-my-backyard protests against onshore projects in the traditional Conservative Party heartlands, and the fear of losing voters to the explicitly anti-wind UK Independence Party (UKIP).

But the letter points out that “recent polling by the Conservative Environment Network has shown that support for onshore wind amongst Conservative voters runs at 74% whilst over half the electorate look unfavourably on political parties who support a ban”.

“Beyond the economic and social arguments for onshore wind, there is clear public support for developing new onshore wind as part of a low carbon energy mix, as there is for renewed action to tackle climate change,” it says.

The letter, which was coordinated by trade body RenewableUK, was also signed by Renewable UK chief executive Hugh McNeal, and Scottish Renewables boss, Claire Mack, as well as senior personnel at CS Wind, Farrans, AE Yates, REG Power Management, Power Systems UK, Athena PTS and Ainscough Crane Hire.

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