A Good Week

Last week saw good news for us here at Intelligent Land Investments as we saw five of our sites gain planning approval over the course of a few days. This acceleration of sites coming through the planning process is the result of much hard work over the last year in signing up, assessing and making the case for our sites to communities and councils.

The five sites are in Local Authority Areas across the country including Aberdeenshire and South Lanarkshire; two areas of great wind resource, arable land and grid development. In total they add up to over a megawatt of renewable energy which will be constructed, connected to the National Grid and generating renewable electricity over the course of the next few months.

Good news for ourselves but more importantly good news for the farmers and landowners which we work with. The benefits of renewable energy should not be reaped solely by those landowners and developers able to develop large scale windfarms. The feed-in-tariff, as we are demonstrating, can be accessed by a much higher proportion of the population. People to which the revenue from a wind turbine, such as those consented last week, can be a game-changer  At a time when the UK’s agricultural sector is coming under increasing pressure from poor weather, higher costs and reduced governmental support the work companies such as ourselves are doing can make a real difference for farmers across the country.

Good news for communities across the country as well as money from every one of these turbines (as well as all of our other sites) will be used to support community groups, projects and charities in every one of the Local Authority Areas in which we are operating. At a time when funding for such vital work is being squeezed we are delighted to be able to make a contribution.

Good news too for both the UK and Scottish Governments. We are contributing to both parliaments meeting their renewable energy generation targets along with the rest of our industry. Over the past few years Renewable Energy has been one of the few industries in the UK able to create both growth and jobs

The benefits that renewable energy generation can bring to farmers across the country were promoted by the NFU (National Farmers Union) in the run up to their annual conference this week. Noting that British agricultural yields and productivity have dropped to levels not seen since the 1980s (largely attributed to last years poor weather) it was revealed that in 2012 an estimated one in five NFU members produced renewable electricity on their land. The NFU is encouraging more of it’s members to explore the opportunites available to them:

“2012 was a difficult year for the farming community, with bad weather hitting incomes hard. Investing in renewable energy provides farmers and growers with additional earnings at a time when farm budgets have become very stretched.” – Dr Jonathan Scurlock, NFU Chief Advisor for renewable energy and climate change.

Maria McCaffrey, Chief Executive of RenewableUK received the news enthusiastically:

“Farmers are experts at harnessing the Earth’s natural resources, so it’s no surprise that they are leading the way on wind energy. The UK has the most powerful wind resource in Europe and this has provided a vital source of income for farmers, helping to preserve rural communities in Britain.”

It is our hope that the good news continues to come in, not just for ourselves but for all of our landowners.

A good week for Wind Energy

There was good news for the UK wind industry this week as a YouGov poll published in last weeks Sunday Times revealed that support for renewable energy remains extremely high with the British public.

The poll from the country’s most respected market research agency revealed particularly strong support for wind, wave and tidal power. For example when those sampled were asked which technologies they most supported for meeting Britain’s energy needs  18% of those asked backed wind power and a further 18% backed wave and tidal power. In comparison only 5% felt that further gas generation was the best solution and a meagre 2% backed an expansion of coal power generation. This is despite strong claims from some sections of the UK Government that a boom in unconventional gas could act as an economic stimulus for the country over the next decade.

Government support levels for renewable technologies have also been a contentious issue for some aspects of the British press with some outlets claiming that there is mass public opposition to schemes such as the Renewables Obligations and the Feed-in-Tariffs. However this YouGov poll reveals that 66% of those surveyed feel the government is entirely correct to subsidise renewable developments. Additionally 56% of people polled are strongly in favour of continued financial support for wind. These figures would seem to suggest that it is vested interests rather than the public who are unhappy with the expansion of renewable energy developments in the UK. Some press outlets have also maintained that people are particularly opposed to these developments happening in their own local area. Again these claims are not backed up the  polling figures: 64% of people would be in favour of a large scale onshore wind development in their area, 72% would support a large scale offshore wind development and 71% would be in favour of large scale development of wave and tidal resources. In comparison only between 4-13% of people would oppose such developments.

The publication of the poll was received enthusiastically by Jennifer Webber, Director of External Affairs for RenewableUK:

“Each time one of these national polls is published we see the same message – resounding support for wind, wave and tidal, continued acceptance of financial support for them and understanding of the benefits. Government needs to focus all its efforts on realising the low carbon future people are calling out for – 78% of people polled chose a low-carbon source of energy as their choice for the future. To achieve the investment needed to secure people’s overwhelming request for a low carbon future, we need to see a signal from Government beyond 2020. The 2030 target would be a great way to achieve this.

Additionally, this week, a document published by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) revealed that the UK now has the third highest wind energy capacity on the continent.  This is an improvement on 2011 when the UK was fifth behind France, Italy, Germany and Spain. 2012 has seen the UK leapfrog France and Italy now behind only the long established German and Spanish industries. In total the UK now has 8.4GW of installed wind capacity.

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK commented:

“The UK’s strong performance in the European league table reflects the growing importance of the British wind industry as a leading player. This proves the increasing significance of wind energy to the UK’s economy despite tough global economic conditions.

“The Government is calling for the UK to quadruple the amount of wind installed between now and 2020. The industry can achieve 31 gigawatts onshore and offshore by the end of the decade, but only with clear-cross party political support.

“We can attract billions of pounds worth of investment to the UK and create tens of thousands of jobs, but only if the signals from Westminster are right. The proof of this will be in the Energy Bill, which is due to become law by the end of the year. So the decisions taken by Government over the next few months are absolutely crucial for the UK’s wind industry.”

69% of all new European energy capacity came from renewable technologies underlining the consensus that exists in Europe about both the importance and potential of renewable energy.

Onshore Wind has Potential to Deliver Sizeable Economic Benefits to Wales

A report published this week has revealed the opportunities onshore wind presents for Wales if the country is able to achieve it’s renewable energy targets. The report, entitled ‘Economic Opportunities for Wales from Future Onshore Wind Development‘ was produced in partnership between the Cardiff Business School and Regeneris Consulting.

Wales could stand to benefit from an annual  £2.3 billion sum contributing to GVA between 2012 -2050. Additionally the onshore wind industry would be able to support 2,000 annual jobs over the same time-frame in a variety of fields including construction, maintenance and decommissioning. Such benefits would obviously be dependant upon achieving the Welsh Assembly’s target of 2,000 MW of installed onshore wind power by 2025.

However, the report also highlighted some of the problems existing with Wales’ current planning policy. It was estimated that if Welsh onshore wind continues to be approved and installed at current rates then the 2025 target will not be achieved. Onshore wind’s contribution to the Welsh economy would stand at a level below £1 billion and the industry would be able to support less than 1,000 jobs in the country.

Reactions to the report were generally positive  whilst also trying to make the case for increased devolvement of planning powers to the Welsh Assembly. Dr David Clubb, Director of RenewableUK Cymru  commented:

“The report demonstrates that onshore wind energy could provide substantial economic benefits for Wales and also help us to become a more sustainable  nation. The opportunity will only arise if the industry is enabled to meet Welsh Government aspirations for onshore wind, which in turn requires a much higher consenting rate.

“Without a significant shift in the consenting rate, and in the overall approach of planning policy in Wales to this sector, we will continue to be held hostage by rising fossil fuel prices and we will fail to meet our renewable energy ambitions with a corresponding missed opportunity to generate livelihoods for more than 2,000 people in Wales.”

John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development strongly made the case for further powers for the Welsh Assembly:

“This report is a welcome addition to the body of evidence that demonstrates that a low carbon transition is not just an environmental imperative, but also a significant economic opportunity for Wales.

“The Welsh Government will be working with the industry and looking to them to demonstrate how, with our help, they ensure that job creation and GVA are delivered against the expectations set out in this report.

“We continue to believe the Welsh Government is best placed to align Wales’ energy aspirations with the needs of our communities. That is why we have repeatedly called upon the UK Government to transfer the power over the consenting of large-scale energy projects to the Welsh Government, in line with the powers already devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

Professor Calvin Jones, Deputy Associate Dean for Engagement, Cardiff Business School echoed these calls:

“Previous research by Cardiff Business School has shown that Wales is the most fossil fuel dependant of British regions. This report shows that there are significant economic benefits from investment in alternative technologies, but only if we can find a regulation and planning regime that encourages such investment within a proper strategy approach to energy generation in Wales.”

The report also serves to illustrate some of the advantages Scotland enjoys when it comes to renewable energy. More ambitious targets, a more enthusiastic devolved government and control over planning policy.