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England missing out on onshore wind benefits

Words: Laura Edgar
Renewable energy

Scotland is taking the lead in using onshore wind while England is lagging behind and missing some of the economic benefits.

RenewableUK’s annual report, Wind Energy in the UK, shows that more than 60 per cent of UK onshore wind projects are now installed and in operation in Scotland.

Onshore wind in the country is generating a higher annual turnover - £211 million – for the UK overall than England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined, says the study. The UK turnover from capital spend for onshore wind in 2014/15 was £402 million.

During the period the report covers - June 2014 to June 2015 - half of all construction activity and more than 70 per cent of consents were in Scotland. Fewer than 10 per cent of new consents were in England, creating just 25 per cent of capacity.

But Wind Energy in the UK also revealed that England fares much better in the offshore wind sector.

Almost 1.4 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity was constructed in English waters in the time period. RenewableUK said this means that the benefits of construction and operation are being felt most by coastal communities, including Grimsby and Lowestoft.

In Scotland, financial support (Contracts for Difference) was secured for offshore wind from the UK Government. 2.3 GW of capacity was granted in Scotland, while in England, only 4.9 GW gained consented.

RenewableUK’s chief executive Maria McCaffery said it is hoped that the report serves as a wake-up call to government, “proving that the wind industry is delivering a substantial amount of clean power, investment and jobs to Britain – despite mixed messages from ministers”.

McCaffrey said the report notes that the government has not set out its long-term plan for energy policy.

“Ministers have stated that their objective is cutting carbon at the lowest cost to consumers, so it is difficult to understand why they are undermining investor confidence in the energy sector as a whole by announcing sudden unexpected changes in policy. This is especially true regarding onshore wind, which is the lowest-cost clean technology and is set to be cheaper than new gas by 2020, so it deserves to retain its place in our energy mix rather than being excluded from it.”

Wind Energy in the UK can be downloaded from the RenewableUK website.