Conservatives to cut funding to countryside Wind Farms

Having already laid waste to the Code for Sustainable Homes, the Conservative party is expected to announce a cut to the funding of onshore wind farms in favour of their more expensive offshore counterparts. The environmentally questionable move, which was strongly hinted at by Tory chairman Grant Shapps last week, is expected to form a part of the Conservatives’ manifesto ahead of the 2015 general election. This will put them at odds with their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, but will answer some voters’ concerns about the visual effects of wind turbines on the British countryside.

Scout Moor Wind Farm

Image by Paul Anderson

According to a report on wind power by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) last week, the change would result in higher energy bills. Professor Richard Green, an economist at Imperial College London and a member of the independent working group responsible for the RAEng report, has claimed that the Conservatives’ plan would lead to greater subsidies of £300,000 per turbine. Offshore turbines would be given £140 per megawatt hour of electricity produced, whereas onshore turbines would be granted £90 per megawatt hour. This would be accounted for by increased energy bills, according to Prof. Green.

In the report, the RAEng found that Britain could generate up to 20% of its electricity needs through wind farms – the grid currently supports just over half of that – before any major upgrades would have to be made to the system.

But curbing onshore wind turbines is seen by the Tories as a vote-clinching move. In a report from the London School of Economics last week, it was found that wind farms can decrease the value of a home within a radius of 2km by as much as 12%. However, this was just days following a contradictory study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research and RenewableUK.

Ultimately, according to RAEng group member and professorial fellow in engineering at Lancaster University, Roger Kemp, the public will look most closely at the impact of the change on their finances. He said: ‘If we’re being serious about decarbonising the grid and doing the things the government says it’s committed to doing about climate change, then we’ve got to find some way of getting electricity without burning fossil fuels – coal, gas, oil and so on. The alternative to wind power is solar power, but our peak electricity requirement is at about six o’clock in the evening in December, and you don’t get much out of your solar panels in December at six o’clock.’

The focus on finance is of course important to all, so with onshore wind farms costing significantly less money and potentially supplying a great amount of our electricity there is still hope that the public will opt for the environmentally beneficial option in next year’s general election.

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