PMQs: Sunak hits back at Blackford's energy plan criticism
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Experts urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to U-turn on his decision to scrap a relaxation of planning around onshore wind farms. As part of his predecessor Ms Truss and former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s controversial mini-budget, the Government announced policies designed to boost growth by scrapping red tape around onshore wind farms in Britain. Under those plans, the construction of wind farms on British soil would be in line with other infrastructure projects, allowing the country to harness a major new renewable energy source. However, since becoming the Prime Minister, Mr Sunak has backtracked on those plans, potentially squandering an opportunity to harness one of the cheapest forms of energy.
According to Ms Truss’ growth plan, “an offshore wind farm can take four years to get through the planning process and no new substantive onshore wind farm has received planning consent since 2015.
“On some metrics, the system has also been deteriorating in recent years: the timespan for granting Development Consent Orders (DCOs) increased by 65 percent between 2012 and 2021.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, the head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said: “When it comes to onshore wind, it is really baffling why the Government in the past few years have been hostile towards it or at best lukewarm.
“Similarly, with all renewables, onshore wind has the support of 80 percent of the population. it is popular, and it has been popular over the past several years.
“Especially now since people know that it’s one of the cheapest forms of energy generation, they know that it means we have to import less gas, reducing our dependence on the international market and such high prices.
“Onshore wind would be a sort of a win-win, and a Government that supports it would be following very popular public opinion.
“It’s really important that the industry has clear signals and the Government recognises the value of these technologies, so that will give the companies the confidence to invest and deploy them faster.”
As the cost of wholesale gas soars, renewable energy projects have ended up coming more lucrative than ever before, with the most recent analysis revealing that wind power is nine times cheaper than current gas prices.
Analysis by the Carbon Brief found that the Government had granted a number of contracts to offshore wind farm producers to generate electricity at an average price of £48 per megawatt-hour (MWh), which is nine times cheaper than the £446/MWh current cost of running gas-fired power stations.
While polling suggests that public support for onshore wind farms is high, some companies like Octopus Energy have rolled out incentive scheme that offer reduced energy bills for local communities that have wind farms near them.
Dr Cran-McGreehin added that such schemes would be a good idea, adding: “There was some polling done a few months ago that the support figure of around 80 percent went even higher if you were to offer discounts on energy and electricity for having onshore wind nearby.
“People are supportive of onshore wind, and are supportive of it in their area and particularly if we help cut their bills. But wider than that, people know that wherever they live in the country, the less gas we use, and the more renewables we use, the cheaper everyone’s electricity is.
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“We’re already seeing the benefits of that. Local benefits are welcome, but even without that, there is such strong support across the country for renewables.”
Onshore wind could also play a critical role in boosting the UK’s energy security, making sure that the country is not reliant on imported natural gas.
A poll from the think tank Green Alliance found that 83 per ent of the public support more onshore wind, including 80 percent of Britons who voted for the Conservatives in 2019.
The poll also found that an overwhelming 87 percent of voters would also be willing to have a wind turbine in their local area.
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