Wind energy was front-page news in the UK this weekend with the revelation that Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne plans on cutting subsidies for onshore wind turbines by 25%, a move that would “kill dead” the industry, according to RenewableUK. At the same time, the Chancellor will maintain Government support for nuclear and fossil fuels which account for the largest proportion of Government support for energy.
The news came despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s election campaign promises to be the “greenest government ever” and in the face of a new poll which reveals that a majority of Britons actually want more wind energy.
The recent poll, taken by ComRes for the Independent newspaper, shows a sizeable 68% of the public believing that new wind farms are an “acceptable price to pay” for green energy in the future. Young people are even more supportive of wind energy, with almost 80% of those ages 18-44 backing wind farms, compared to 59% of those ages 45 and over.
And yet, the Conservative leader seems to have been persuaded by a minority of Tory backbench MPs to backpedal on green energy. In February a hundred Tory MPs sent Cameron a letter demanding cuts to the £400 million (€492 million) a year government subsidies, which they see as evidence of too much Liberal Democrat influence over policy in the Coalition government. Earlier this year Cameron’s government announced cuts in solar power subsidies, and a newly published energy bill is heavy on support for nuclear and gas.
“What is needed is a phase out of subsidies for ALL mature energy sources. The European Commission itself acknowledges that fossil fuels receive four times the level of subsidy as all renewable energies,” Julian Scola, Communication Director at EWEA, said.
This latest evidence of public support for wind power comes on the back of similar polls in the UK, such as the April survey commissioned by wind trade body RenewableUK, which showed 66% of Britons in favour and just 8% against when asked: “to what extent are you in favour of or opposed to the use of wind power in the UK”.
Ending subsidies has been shown to be disastrous for the renewables industry in countries like Spain. The government there cut support for new renewable energy in January, pushing project developers and equipment makers to work abroad or perish. “They destroyed the Spanish market overnight with the moratorium,” EWEA Chief Executive Officer Christian Kjaer said in an interview with Bloomberg.
Looking to cut costs, the UK government has set its sights on wind energy, but is looking in the wrong place. “It is crackers to kill dead the deployment of the cheapest renewable technology if you genuinely are worried about the cost,” said Gordon Edge, policy director at RenewableUK. A source at one of Britain’s big six energy companies told the Guardian: “It’s perverse – you get less renewable energy bang for your buck. It only makes sense if you don’t like windfarms in your constituency.”