During the last five years of the coalition government, onshore windfarms often came under attack from those who believed it a waste of money. Projects were still given the go ahead but there was often the feeling that the industry might well be living on borrowed time in this particular arena.
There’s no doubt that, with a majority Conservative government now in power, things could be about to turn decidedly turbulent for the onshore windfarm industry. Plans are afoot, if we believe the Tory manifesto, for the spread of wind farms to be curbed, a move that could put thousands of jobs at risk in the industry.
There are problems for the government though and it’s not a cut and dried policy move. Troublesome Scotland is in favour of onshore wind farms and are set to fight any move that would stop new projects. That could mean new wind farms being allowed in the north but, as the cost of subsidising construction is spread across the whole country, being paid for by people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. What may seem like a simple move to block wind farms could well steep the Conservative Government in a good deal of confusion if not everyone agrees with them.
And many people do not.
There has always been some perceived negative feelings about windfarms, more so for those that are built on land rather than out at sea. The Not-In-My-Backyard brigade have come out in force in the past, so we are told. But recent surveys have suggested that the Great British public are not as anti-wind farm as many in the media, and in government, would have us believe.
Now that the Liberals are no longer in government, the Tory Energy Secretary is now Amber Rudd and she has stated that stopping the spread of onshore wind farms is top of her agenda. In a recent interview in The Times, she was pretty unequivocal, saying: “It will mean no more onshore wind farm subsidies and no more onshore wind farms without local community support. This is really important. I’ve already got my team working on it. That’s going to be one of the first things we’re going to do.”
It’s a big body blow for those who believe in wind power and how it can contribute to the UK’s energy needs. It’s not all doom and gloom and there may be some light on the horizon to perk up the converted. In the same edition that The Times published the Rudd interview they also produced a poll saying that 52% of people, mostly Tory voters, believed that there should be more onshore wind farms.
The manifesto pledge hasn’t made the Conservatives very popular with green groups as you may imagine and there is concern amongst Tory ranks that this could become an embarrassment if certain factions turn against them. Not only might they have misjudged the public’s mood over wind farms but they may also have a big fight on their hands with Scotland.
There are those, however, who think there is too much emphasis on wind energy and that stopping subsidies and pulling back from projects could well release valuable resources for developing other initiatives such as tidal, hydroelectric and solar. How the battle for onshore wind farms will eventually play out, only time will tell, but be prepared for a bumpy ride.