UK Lift Ban on Onshore Wind Turbine Projects

With the block on new onshore UK wind farms being lifted it means that companies are able to compete against one another for clean onshore energy contracts in one of the windiest countries in the world.

On the 2nd March the government of the United Kingdom ended a five-year block on new onshore wind turbines. This is a very progressive step from the Government and has been seen as a major victory for campaigners for a greener Britain and those who are concerned about the effects of climate change.

Onshore wind turbines were technically not made illegal back in 2015 however there were many barriers put in the way which restricted companies from winning contracts for an onshore farm. First of all, the government put in place onerous planning barriers on new wind turbine projects, this led to a decrease in planning applications of about 95 per cent by 2018. Secondly, onshore wind farms were not able to bid for the same long-term clean energy contracts that were available to alternative power methods such as nuclear power and offshore wind farms which are needed to get them built. Blocking onshore wind turbines also blocked solar power from the same long-term contracts which meant that two of the cheapest clean energy sources were left out.

Controversially, with onshore wind power no longer an option, the government showed repeated and continuous support for fracking which still was not particularly backed up by the general public. At one point it was proposed that fracking wells should come under the term ‘permitted developments’ effectively meaning they would have the same planning status of a garden wall. During this time 75 per cent of the British public supported onshore wind turbines which produce electricity at a cheaper rate than any form of fossil fuel. Despite this, the government ignored the unrivalled support for the technology and the potential that it has in such a windy nation.

However, on Monday this all changed when it was announced that the next round of clean energy auctions, which will be held next year, will be including both solar power and onshore wind turbines. The contracts in these auctions set a floor price for power sold from new projects, which effectively acts as a subsidy during the lifetime of that project if the floor price is greater than that of the market price for power. As onshore wind turbines provide such cheap electricity, it is expected that its floor price will be at or even below current market prices. Therefore, new onshore wind turbines projects should effectively be free of government subsidy as it will subsidise itself.

Climate campaigners are celebrating the news this week and the change in fortunes between wind power and fracking however they believe that it should not have been this hard and valuable time has certainly been lost in the battle against climate change. Other new pledges from the government such as bringing the petrol and diesel car ban to 2035, the decision not to appeal the Heathrow judgment and a £9 billion pledge to spend on domestic energy efficiency leads climate campaigners to believe that this government is going in the right direction in trying to reduce climate change.

The lift on the ban on onshore wind turbines is promising however it will only go so far especially whilst other barriers still remain. There are still many planning blocks which are an obstacle to plan and develop new projects. If the government is able to remove such obstacles it will be much easier to create and invest in new wind turbine onshore projects.

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