The North East has welcomed as a step in the right direction a reduction in the financial incentives offered to energy firms putting up rural wind farms.
Ministers have sent a clear signal of intent with a 5% reduction in the subsidy paid to energy firms for onshore turbines, while at the same time increasing prices paid to support offshore turbines.
Revealing the change as part of the Government’s infrastructure announcements, Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander said the overall level of green subsidies had not been changed, but the Government was focused on achieving value for money and supporting offshore wind.
He said: “What it’s about is making sure that onshore wind and solar play an important role in our delivery of renewables over the next few years but that we are not paying any more than necessary to ensure that delivery.
“It’s about getting the best value for money for the consumer as well as making sure that offshore wind, which has such a huge potential to contribute to our economy and to be part of meeting our future energy needs, has the commitment and support that it needs.”
The North East is thought to have missed out on a jobs boost following repeated delays in plans to build a huge wind farm more than a hundred miles off the coast in the North Sea. Experts say the wind turbines need far greater level of financial support from the Government in order to make them viable.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons yesterday, Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith praised the changes.
“With Northumberland facing more and more applications for wind farms in sensitive landscape sites, I welcome the cut in subsidies to onshore wind farms within our continuing commitment to renewable energy,” he said.
He later added: “This is good news, especially for communities which feel they risk being encircled by wind turbines”.
Last night the changes were also cautiously welcomed by the Newcastle and Northumberland Society, which has been putting together an evidence base to use against wind turbine plans.
Lester Sher, who chairs a sub-group on the Society tasked with looking at renewable energy in Northumberland, said: “These things bring in diminishing returns as it is.
“There is no question that these turbines are far from benign and when they are grouped together they have a terrible impact.
“In Northumberland this is a major issues, as can be seen now by the Middlemoor scheme. So today’s change is small step towards changing that. I’m disappointed it is not a bigger change, because the subsidy is crucial, you cannot build these without them.”
Energi Coast, North East England’s renewables group, has welcomed the Government’s announcement to maintain the level of subsidies for offshore wind.
Joanne Leng, deputy chairman of the group, said: “The announcement offers further reassurance that the Government is committed to offshore wind, which should give investors and developers the confidence they need to bring projects online.
“The industry has a skilled and experienced supply chain, including the companies within Energi Coast, which is prepared and has the capabilities to support the growth of the UK offshore wind sector.
“These companies have made the bold move of entering the sector at its formative stage, which has led to them winning work and establishing market presence that puts them in the ideal position to form the backbone of the offshore wind supply chain.
“Hopefully, investors and developers can look to the future with more confidence and take the next important step towards further establishing offshore wind as a key element of the UK’s energy mix.”
Renewable UK’s deputy chief executive Maf Smith said: “We welcome the fact that the Government has heeded the wind industry’s call for a more realistic level of financial support for offshore wind.
“It sends an important political signal that the Government recognises the need to back this sector, if we are to attract big wind turbine manufacturers to the UK to open up factories, creating tens of thousands of jobs.”