Recently, UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon spoke of an end to onshore wind farm developments should the Conservatives win an outright General Election in 2015. However this comes with a warning from the Royal Academy of Engineers who state that an abolishment of wind farm developments in the UK will increase energy bills. Also the minister in charge of the full department, Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has said that “putting the brakes on onshore wind would be disastrous for business and jobs in our growing green economy.”
Mr. Fallon also failed to take into account figures from a poll by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), his own department, which showed 70% support onshore wind, 80% backed renewable energy in general, and 59% said they would be happy with a major renewable energy development in their immediate area. It seems clear that contrary to certain beliefs, the UK population does want to see the country make use of its abundant renewable energy resources.
Onshore wind is also the cheapest form of renewable energy and compares favourably against other form of energy generation. For example the Renewables Obligation costs £2bn in 2012-13, which equates to approximately 58p per UK household per week whereas the cost of decommissioning the UK’s nuclear power stations is £3bn per year, 50% higher.
The suggestion of ending all onshore wind developments also ignores the reduction in carbon emissions it brings as well as additional benefits to the UK.
The renewable energy industry’s goal has always been to end government support at a point where it is no longer required but to do this in 2015 would have a detrimental effect on the industry overall. Investment is currently at an all-time high delivering economic benefits across the country. In Scotland alone £1bn was invested in renewable energy projects in 2013 and the industry employs over 3,500 people.
The DECC confirmed that onshore wind generated a quarter of the electricity generated in Scotland in 2013 and energy produced from renewable sources can power 3.6million homes. Onshore wind developments also reduced the carbon output of the country by 10m tonnes since 2012.
It also reduces our reliance on energy from third party nations and protects from future rapid increases in wholesale prices, something always passed onto the consumer. At present the uncertainty surrounding Russia, the largest provider of natural gas, has the potential to have a damaging effect on energy supply.
New onshore wind developments also contribute towards the necessary upgrading of grid connections which will be required for the emerging offshore wind, tidal, and wave industries. Many onshore wind developers, ILI Energy included, are investing in new grid technology which will greatly benefit these new clean energy sources both directly and indirectly. Any changes in government policy will slow progress and reduce investor confidence in onshore wind and the renewable industry on a whole.
Onshore wind offers positive solutions in energy supply, the future of our environment, the upgrading of the aging grid network and contributes significantly to economic growth and employment. Previously we have also discussed the positive impact onshore wind has on communities by helping to support the local farming community and providing benefits to good causes and worthwhile projects.
It is also important to note that without the contribution from onshore wind the UK will either fail to meet the 2020 carbon reduction target or leave us to source clean energy from other areas which is likely to increase prices.
Perhaps the most compelling point Mr. Fallon and his party should consider is the in 2013 almost £8bn was invested in renewable energy. In a report from the DECC it was also confirmed that since 2010, an average of £7bn a year has been investment in renewables which produces 15% of the UK’s electricity.
Along with the report being published Ed Davey announced the details a new scheme in which businesses and organisations will compete for funding for projects which reduce electricity demand. Initially the scheme will offer £10m from a total budget of £20m.
Better efficiency could create savings equivalent to 9% of total demand by 2030, the DECC said.
Davey said: “Our plan is powering growth and jobs in the UK economy. We are building a secure, sustainable energy system for the future, dealing with an historic legacy of underinvestment and neglect that threatened to undermine the whole economy.
“The funds we invest now in keeping the lights on could, in the future, be available to support cheaper projects that deliver lasting reductions in peak electricity demand.”
At ILI Energy we appreciate the necessity of reducing our energy demands, it makes sense both economically and environmentally and therefore applaud such schemes however we are also aware that we will always require energy.
In the future, the need for this energy to be both clean and inexpensive points towards the continuation of new onshore wind developments. Therefore any political party looking to end the government support in this industry should consider the compelling arguments discussed above and the impact this will have country.