The community benefits consultation seeks new information on issues including: barriers to community engagement, best practice in local consultation by developers, ways to maximise local participation in supply chains and new ways to reward host communities financially such as offsetting electricity bills.
Energy secretary Ed Davey said: “Onshore wind has an important part to play in a diverse energy mix that is secure, low carbon and affordable. We know that two thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind. But far too often, host communities have seen the windfarm but not the windfall.
“We are sensitive to the controversy around onshore wind and we want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited near to them.
“This new call for evidence will look at ways to reward host communities and ensure that wider investment, employment and social benefits are felt locally.”
In response to the announcement, Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, said: “We welcome this call from DECC. Thousands of people around the UK are already seeing evidence of the economic benefits wind energy brings – wind farm owners donate at least £1,000 for every megawatt they install, to be spent on community projects – improving sports facilities, village halls and school libraries. Overall, the economic tonic that wind energy is providing for UK plc is enormous – last year, the onshore wind industry provided around 8,600 skilled engineering and construction jobs and added £548m to our economy.
“We consult local people at great length before any project goes ahead, as we know how important it is to hear views from all sides. Independent opinion polls show consistently that two-thirds of the British public support wind energy. We’ll be working closely with DECC to ensure that more and more people feel that their local wind farm is very much part of their community – something to be proud of, and something to cherish.”
Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns, Andrew Pendleton, added: “Two-thirds of the public already support on-shore wind – enabling local communities to share the benefits of windfarms will make them even more popular.
“But more must be done to encourage the development of community-owned turbines, so local people can reap all the rewards, including cheaper electricity and investment in local amenities.
“Appropriately-sited wind farms have a key role to play in tackling climate change, creating new jobs and reducing the nation’s dependence on increasingly expensive fossil fuels.”