If the current rates of growth of nuclear energy persist, the renewable energy capacity of the UK is going to overtake nuclear by the year 2018. More importantly, it is expected that renewable energy will provide enough electricity to power 1 in every 10 homes in the United Kingdom by the year 2015, as revealed by new research. Compared to 2010, the energy supplied by wind farms has increased by more than a quarter, and all in all, it has been a very good year for the renewable energy industry. Even though the government has, for the large part, done a u-turn and backed away from wind energy investment, especially on-shore now (more than a hundred Tory MPs signed a petition against the construction of new wind farms, while George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has asked for a review of the subsidies), the industry has still managed to flourish. Investment within the offshore wind sector has gone up by 60%, standing at around £1.5 Billion in the past year. As per the information revealed by Renewables UK, approvals for onshore wind farms have increased by around fifty percent and have now reached a record milestone.
Even though the Tory MPs have been quite verbal and active in their opposition to wind power, the overall capacity of onshore wind power increased in the past year for the first time in the past five years. The CEO of Renewable UK, Maria McCaffery stated that such positive figures clearly highlight the significance of a stable trading climate to attract stronger investment, especially during an economic downturn. She stated that as a result, it was very important that the framework which was set up by the energy bill, which is, at present, under review by the Parliament, should be spot on. She stated that even though the country was quite a bit far off in its aim to reach its targets, they were still on track and gathering speed.
The energy minister of the Conservative party, John Hayes, who has often provided quite verbal opposition to the wind farms industry, revealed to a popular newspaper in the UK that he was extremely proud of the wind energy industry in the United Kingdom. He stated that making an investment in the latest technological advancements was a very ‘British’ thing. Even though he has been quite against the idea of wind farms, John Hayes stated that he would provide support to new turbines, as long as suitable areas were chosen for their construction. He stated that the main thing was to get the support of the local people where the wind farms were being built. The coalition government is likely to bring forth a number of different measures which will make it much easier for the local communities to benefit from the wind farms, such as providing them with a financial stake in the overall revenues generated by the farm.
It was previously expected that the debate over the energy bill will be held next week, however that is now likely to be postponed until November as ministers are still arguing with each other over the implications. There is a significant divide in the Tory party when it comes to the treatment of renewable energy, as quite a few of the MPs (a figure in excess of 100) signed a letter stating their opposition towards wind farms. A new appointment was made to the energy and climate change select committee in the past week; Peter Lilley, a climate change skeptic was taken onboard. This move depicted that the government was shifting rightwards in its climate policy. However, in the past few years, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, has stated that the renewable energy industry is going to be extremely crucial to the future prosperity of the United Kingdom.
One thing that is obvious is that if any last minute changes are made to the energy bill, it is likely to drive away investors. Manufacturers of wind turbines are already delaying decisions on whether they should make an investment in new manufacturing plants within the United Kingdom, as they all await clarification from the Government of the energy policy of the near future. A number of the largest companies in the world are pondering over decisions to construct manufacturing plants in the United Kingdom, but are unlikely to make a move until further, stronger assurances are provided by the Government. Companies such as Siemens, Mitsubishi and General Electric have all expressed an interest in building a manufacturing plant in the United Kingdom. George Osborne has been a very vocal supporter of gas and has repeatedly stated that the energy future of the United Kingdom lies within the gas industry, and as a result, the government has already paved the way for 20 new gas fired power stations.
This move however, didn’t go down very well with renewable energy power investors, and has unsettled them. A big investor in the wind energy sector, who cannot be named here, stated that the constant talk about gas was certainly not a very reassuring point for the people who were investing in other areas, such as renewable energy. A trade association by the name of Renewable UK stated that around 137,000 people were involved in the renewable sector, while an additional 654,500 jobs were taken up in ancillary industries. As a result, it remains to be seen as to what decision the government is likely to take on the energy bill. Moreover, it is obvious that support for the wind energy industry has to increase in the long run, because it is turning out to be a major player in the renewable energy sector. With investments rising in the onshore and offshore wind farm construction scene, the government will certainly have to review its stance due to the economic benefits that can be generated from wind energy. On the other hand, solar energy in the United Kingdom is also expanding significantly.