The government abandons opposition to subsidising new onshore windfarms

Four years after ministers abolished support for new onshore wind projects, the Government has dropped its opposition to new onshore wind ‘competing for contracts to generate clean power’.

The change follows the government’s pledge to reach its net zero target by 2050, a goal that the Committee on Climate Change has said could be reached if the UK can quadruple its renewable energy generation.

“Ending our contribution to climate change means making the UK a world leader in renewable energy,” says Secretary of State for Business and Energy, Alok Sharma.

The government will remove the block against onshore wind projects by allowing schemes to compete for subsidies.

RenewablesUK welcomes the government’s announcement and highlights how a new Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction will allow the pipeline of shovel-ready onshore wind projects to compete for contracts to provide new renewable generation capacity.

Chief Executive of RenewablesUK, Hugh McNeal, said:

“Backing cheap renewables is a clear example of the practical action to tackle climate change that the public is demanding, and this will speed up the transition to a net zero economy.

“As one of the UK’s cheapest power sources, new onshore wind projects will be a huge boost for jobs and investment in local economies across the UK.”

Suzanne Clear, NFU senior planning adviser, said: “Five years ago, the NFU expressed its frustration at changes to the planning regime, which overnight put a stop to onshore wind turbines regardless of their size and impact.

“The subsequent slow-down in farm wind power installations resulted in the numerous suppliers and installers going out of business, while farmers and growers were denied the opportunity to diversify their businesses, reduce their fuel bills and cut carbon emissions.

“At a time when the Government is imposing regulation to reduce reliance on fossil fuel and many local authorities are declaring climate change emergencies, there is an opportunity for positive town planning policy to support small and medium sized turbines and benefit farming, food production and the environment.”

Last week’s consultation outlined proposals to ensure the CfD scheme can support the increased ambition required, including making the UK a world leader in new technologies with floating offshore wind, allowing wind farms to be built further from the shore, increasing the clean energy capacity.

Other ambitions include boosting the UK’s clean energy industry by supporting the renewables supply chain to enhance productivity and increase competitiveness and improving the scheme to better support energy storage, so projects can provide power when generation opportunities are low.

The block against onshore windfarms was originally put in place by David Cameron in 2016, and last year saw the lowest level of new onshore wind projects since 2011, prompting warnings that the UK was endangering its chances of reaching net zero targets.

Keith Anderson, the Chief Executive of Scottish Power, said that the government’s decision to support onshore wind was: “One of the first clear signs that the government really means business” on reaching its climate targets.”

Whereas at one time there was opposition to onshore windfarms ruining the landscape, the climate crisis has catalysed the realisation that all gears at the UK’s disposal need to be used in order to reach the net zero target.

Alethea Warrington, a climate change campaigner at Possible, said: “As our cheapest source of clean energy, onshore wind is hugely popular with people in the UK, who understand that we need to use all the tools in the box to tackle the climate crisis.”