Policy that changed like the wind

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The environmental and economic impact of policies that led to the collapse of onshore wind, was not considered by government, according to findings reported by the Independent newspaper.

Onshore wind is one of the UK’s least costly forms of renewable electricity, but the government’s 2015 manifesto pledged to “end any new public subsidy” for wind farms while the responsibility for deciding where onshore wind farms could be built was shifted to local authorities.

‘Ill-considered action’ blows away UK’s cheapest clean energy

The combination of constraining subsidies and the new rules on deciding on suitable locations for onshore wind farms has coincided with a fall in planning applications of 94% since the policy shift. The Independent says information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that impact assessments were not completed on how the policy change would affect carbon emissions, the future wind sector or consumer energy bills. Impact assessments had, however, been conducted into the effect on equality and family relationships in local communities.

Alan Whitehead, Labour’s shadow minister for energy and climate change, said: “This ill-considered action has thrown away a strong British industry of the future and potentially increased energy prices by effectively outlawing the cheapest form of clean energy in the country today.”

Energy expert analysis

“The debate around the cost effectiveness of onshore wind electricity generation is certainly a complex one, with advocates highlighting the apparently low cost of electricity generation and carbon emission reduction. Detractors point out the intermittency issue, the question of backup when the wind isn’t blowing and the impact on the local environment.

“Certainly the abrupt policy shift from 2015 onwards, apparently with gaps in the understanding of the costly effect of the changes, has given UK onshore wind a tough time. However, over the same period we have seen major growth in offshore wind with, it seems likely, much more to come and also significant growth in solar generation across the UK.” Alastair Fells MEI, Incorporated Eng, PG Dip Fuel Tech, BSc Hons

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