Plant & Works Engineering

UK to end onshore wind farm subsidies early

Published:  08 July, 2015

The early closure of onshore wind subsidies will destroy investor confidence in renewable infrastructure projects and cost the UK economy millions, Savills Energy has warned.

Under the Renewables Obligation (RO) initiative, onshore wind projects which are built before March 2017 would automatically receive funding. However, the recent announcement by energy secretary Amber Rudd confirmed the Conservative Manifesto promise to close the scheme a year early, in April 2016.

Savills Energy says it is deeply concerned that the early closure of the RO will cost the industry millions and is urging the government to rethink its decision, calling for developers to be allowed to transition from the RO as previously agreed in order to avoid irreversible industry damage.

It is also believed that early closure of the RO will add hundreds of millions onto consumer bills, as the move will result in the substitution of more expensive technologies for onshore wind projects.

The decision was also greeted with disappointment by Juliet Davenport OBE, founder and chief executive of Good Energy, who commented: "At such an important time in international climate change negotiations, and just one day after more than 1000 people descended on Parliament to lobby MPs about climate change it is very disappointing that the new government is announcing plans to reduce support for the cheapest large-scale renewable energy – onshore wind.

"By closing the Renewables Obligation early, the government is letting a vocal minority dictate energy policy. We believe the government should be providing solid, stable support for renewable energy which helps tackle the threat of climate change and challenges the dominance of fossil fuels.”

She added: "Onshore wind offers the opportunity for diversifying investment in energy, bringing with it the potential for job creation and further investment. Wind developments also support the growth of small-scale independent generators as well as communities who want to generate their own clean energy, have viable alternatives to the big six and reduce their energy bills.”

However Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, welcomed the move from the Government. She explained that onshore wind turbines are an intermittent and expensive way to generate low carbon energy: “If we are serious about reducing global warming impacts and meeting the UK’s ambitious carbon reduction targets, Government needs to focus on winding-down all coal-fired power generation and replacing it with lower carbon alternative technologies that may include gas-fired power, which produces around half the amount of carbon. Nuclear power generation also has a role to play, as this does not generate any direct carbon emissions at all. We cannot meet the UK’s ambitious carbon reduction target using current renewables, like onshore wind, alone.”

She explained that the money saved from this decision should be channeled into research and development of the next generation of low carbon technologies and improved technologies around the management of radioactive wastes: “We need to find new ways of generating low-carbon, reliable electricity and move away from providing generous subsidies to outdated and ineffective technologies like onshore wind farms.”