Government rethinks wind power stance

Marion Dakers
CLIMATE change minister Greg Barker has moved to placate Tory backbenchers by insisting the country will not be “carpeted in wind farms”.

The renewables industry, however, insists that it still has the full backing of the government.

Barker said he was happy to “reassure colleagues” that Britain does not need any more onshore wind farms in addition to those already in the planning system or being built.

This stance contrasts with former energy secretary Chris Huhne’s call for up to 10,000 new onshore windmills just five months ago.

“We inherited from the Labour party… a policy that was absolutely biased towards onshore wind. We want a much more balanced, diverse renewable energy mix,” Barker told LBC Radio yesterday.

In February, in the wake of Huhne’s resignation, more than 100 Conservative MPs wrote to the Prime Minister calling on him to cut subsidies and toughen up planning rules for wind turbines.

Windmills have already been built in “insensitive or suitable locations”, Barker said.

But RenewableUK, which represents more than 600 wind and marine power companies, said it has recently had “really strong” statements of support for wind farms from the very top of government, despite an expected cut to subsidies in the government’s electricity market reform due in May.

A spokesperson told City A.M: “The Prime Minister, chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister have demonstrated their commitment to renewables and wind farms. It’s something that is taken very seriously at Number 10.”

The UK currently has more than 3,000 onshore turbines and a further 500 at offshore sites such as Thanet.

As part of the coalition’s pledge to generate 15 per cent of England’s electricity through renewable sources by 2020, the number of onshore windmills could more than double, according to industry figures.

Under these targets, the number of people with jobs linked to UK green energy will rise from 12,000 to 88,300 by 2020, RenewableUK estimates.