A storm flared up last night over former Environment Secretary Chris Huhne’s assertion that Northumberland should take more windfarms.
Campaigners have hit out after the Liberal Democrat told The Journal he wanted support for Scottish wind prioritised over concerns in Northumberland.
The Conservatives have promised to axe subsidies for onshore wind if they win in 2015, saying the UK meets its renewable energy obligations, a policy Mr Huhne said would damage wind projects in Scotland.
He said: “I would much prefer it if we are going to have serious objections to onshore wind, that those 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.”
Wind opponents in Northumberland have said Mr Hune needs to look again at the figures.
Campaigner Bill Short, who opposed plans to site 125-metre turbines on the Ray Estate near Kirkwhelpington, said the Lib Dem’s claims were “a ridiculous notion that shows he hasn’t looked closer to home”.
He said: “Scotland has approved more on-shore renewable energy than Northumberland but Scotland is much bigger and it uses much more electricity.
“According to Government figures, Northumberland has approved 383kilowatts for every square mile. Scotland has actually approved less, just 328kilowatts per square mile.
“Perhaps Chris Huhne should compare his own county Hampshire; it has only approved 180kilowatts per square mile.
“When we look at the electricity consumption the figures are even more outrageous: Hampshire uses well over four times as much electricity as Northumberland but will generate less than half of our commitment in renewable energy.
“Even Scotland is committed to producing less renewable energy than Northumberland as a proportion of its consumption.”
Mr Short added: “I think Mr Huhne should look closer to home and perhaps improve his mathematics before making such comparisons.
“He should keep his prejudices for areas that actually need them. We have done more than Scotland per person and vastly more than areas such as his own Hampshire.”
Speaking at the energy debate organised by Square One Law and Brewin Dolphin at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, Mr Huhne said: “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.”
But a recent national study showed that a thousand applications for renewable energy projects, including wind and solar farms, may be causing needless anxiety for homeowners because enough have already been granted planning permission to meet Britain’s 2020 green targets.
The projects that are said to be surplus to requirements include about 3,000 onshore wind turbines, 3,000 offshore ones and 100 solar farms of five acres or more.
A total of 16 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity has already been built, producing enough electricity to supply 11 million homes.
The Renewable Energy Foundation, which analysed figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, found that another 18GW of projects was in the planning system awaiting consent. If these were all built, Britain would produce almost 50% more renewable electricity than is required under the EU directive.
John Constable, the foundation’s director, said: “These needless speculative applications will in many cases be causing widespread planning blight.”