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Government told to support onshore wind

Words: Laura Edgar
Onshore wind farm / Shutterstock_113567881

The government has been urged to make sure there is strong policy support for new onshore wind and large-scale solar power projects, particularly where there is local support and project cost-savings for consumers.

This is one of the recommendations made by the Science and Technology Committee in its latest report, Clean Growth: Technologies for Meeting the UK’s Emission Reduction.

The committee explains that planning consent and technological lifetimes mean that most existing onshore wind farms were expected to last 25 years before needing to be decommissioned, or ‘re-powered’ with upgraded equipment. The government, it suggests, should ensure that national planning policy facilitates the re-powering of existing sites. There needs to be a "clear" planning permission framework for re-powering existing onshore wind farms in place by the end of 2020.

MPs on the committee welcome the government’s plans to eliminate all emissions by 2050, but notes the Committee on Climate Change's warning that the UK is not on course to meet its current targets for 2023 to 2032, which are legally blinding.

However, the Committee on Climate Change has warned that the UK is not even on course to meet its existing legally binding targets for 2023 to 2032.

Urgent action by the government is needed to reverse the current policy trend of cutbacks and slow progress, the Science and Technology Committee said.

The report identifies 10 areas where government policy that supports the implementation of low-carbon technology has been delayed, cut back or undermined carbon reductions, including:

  • The 'feed-in tariff' for low-carbon power generation was closed.
  • Following the cancellation of the 'zero-carbon homes' policy in 2015, the Government said that it would consult on changes to building regulations in 2019 to improve energy efficiency – but no consultation has been launched.
  • Onshore wind and large-scale solar power have been excluded from the financial support mechanism available to other renewable power technologies since 2017, and planning permission for onshore wind farms has also been made more difficult to obtain since 2015.

As well as strong policy support for onshore wind and solar power, the committee wants the government to develop a clearer strategy for decarbonising heat, which will require large-scale trials of different heating technologies.

Recommendations for the government also include:

  • Support local authorities and members of the public in contributing to the UK’s net zero target. For local authorities, this should include access to low-cost, long-term finance, as well as a statutory duty to develop emission reduction plans in line with the national targets set by the Climate Change Act 2008. For members of the public, the government should publish an easily accessible central guide explaining what measures households can take to support decarbonisation.
  • Bring forward the date of its proposed ban on the sales of new ‘conventional’ cars and vans to 2035 at the latest, and ensure that it covers hybrids too.
  • Make a decision on the future finance framework for new nuclear power by the end of 2019. Subject to value for money, it should seek to support new nuclear power generation so as to sustain, but not grow, the UK’s nuclear power industry.
  • The government must provide greater clarity on the details of its carbon capture, usage and storage action plan.

RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Emma Pinchbeck said: “This report is a clarion call to ministers to slash energy bills for consumers by unblocking the development of new onshore wind projects, as well as encouraging the redevelopment of existing sites with even more powerful turbines.”

“The report also highlights the urgent need to support our ground-breaking wave and tidal energy sector, to keep the UK at the cutting edge of innovative renewable technology, and to help reach the decarbonisation targets which ministers themselves have set. The government’s commitment to net zero by 2050 is visionary: this report provides a roadmap to achieve it while keeping bills down, attracting investment and creating tens of thousands of highly skilled new jobs”.

The report and recommendation in full can be found on the UK Parliament website.

Image credit | Shutterstock