Chris Huhne: Allow wind farms in Northumberland to keep Scotland happy

Former energy secretary Chris Huhne said UK policy should be in favour of onshore wind in order to keep Scotland happy

 

The former energy secretary, Chris Huhne, has said wind farms should be allowed in Northumberland as the cost of keeping Scotland happy.

Mr Huhne told a North East energy conference yesterday that as far as he was concerned, wind turbine opponents should be made to “sign a piece of paper saying they don’t mind the lights going out”.

The former cabinet minister criticised the Conservatives for promising to axe subsidies for onshore wind if the party wins the 2015 General Election.

While the Tories have said the move would mean turbines only go ahead if they are backed locally, Mr Huhne said the wider impact would mean the likes of Scotland suffer just to keep onshore wind opponents happy.

Asked by The Journal if he thought legitimate opposition to wind turbines in Northumberland was being ignored in order to please energy firms, the Liberal Democrat said: “I would much prefer it if we are going to have serious objections to onshore wind, that those that are handled at a local level.

“But I don’t see why Scotland should be told it can’t have any more onshore wind developments just because Northumberland doesn’t like it. It seems to me to be daft. For a British Tory prime minister to be saying that when the vast majority of Britain’s onshore wind comes from Scotland is politically foolish in my view.”

Speaking at the energy debate organised by Square One Law and Brewin Dolphin at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, Mr Huhne hit out at the “regular stream” of MPs who had lobbied him in opposition to “every single energy project”.

He told businesses gathered from the region’s energy sector: “Some 70% of the UK’s onshore wind is happening or is forecast to happen in Scotland, and we could do a lot more on the English side of the border.

“It is a low cost energy source, and it’s a great shame that the Conservatives want to put this arbitrary cap on it, they should let local communities have a say.

“You will get on any development a protest. I had delegations of MPs all the time complaining. Every time someone protests about an energy source, I would like them to sign a piece of paper that says I care so much about stopping this energy source that I am prepared to go without the convenience of being able to switch the lights on.”

Berwick Conservative candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan was at the debate, and said Mr Huhne had shown himself to have been more concerned with dogmatic arguments for wind turbines than of more local concerns.

She said: “The Prime Minister has said that Tory government would slash the subsidy for onshore wind leaving local people with the decision.

“We want to cut the subsidy because onshore wind is not the be all and end all of renewable energy. It is inefficient, variable and when the grid is in need of more power there is often no wind to help out.

“But what today has done is shown why we should be reassured that Chris Huhne is no longer the Energy Secretary. He had an ideologic commitment to drive through these turbines even if that meant local concerns are ignored.

“We have in Northumberland big commitment to renewable energy but we do in a sensitive way. A wind turbine ignores those concerns just to provide a financial profit to a foreign investor.”

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