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UK post-election onshore fears

UK: Amber Rudd has been named the new secretary of state for energy and climate change following the election victory for the Conservative Party. However, the result could set back to development of onshore wind in England.

New energy minister Amber Rudd (pic: Decc)
New energy minister Amber Rudd (pic: Decc)

Rudd was previously parliamentary under secretary of state in the department for energy and climate change under former minister and Liberal Democrat Ed Davey.

Many thought the election would result in a hung parliament and a coalition headed by Labour and the Scottish National Party. But, both Labour and the Conservatives' former coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, lost seats in key areas.

Davey supported onshore wind power and renewables against elements of the Conservative Party. Most notably this included a situation where he stopped one-time junior minister John Hayes from making an anti-onshore wind speech at the RenewableUK annual conference.

The Conservatives' manifesto promises to end public subsidies for new projects and to change the law to give local authorities rather than central government the final say on wind farm applications.

Despite the Conservatives plans to halt onshore subsidies, Rudd has previously been supportive of offshore wind. In recent comments via Twitter she hailed the amount of offshore resource and her party's commitment to renewables.

Prime minister David Cameron also replaced junior energy minister Mike Hancock with economic secretary to the Treasury, Andrea Leadsom. Hancock, who had been in the role for 10 months, was moved to a role in the Cabinet Office.

Leadsom has been a major critic of onshore wind. On her website, she said: "Whilst renewable energy has an important part to play in providing energy for our 21st century needs, we have got to stop building incredible insensitive and intrusive wind farms on top of local communities."

She is likely to push through the Conservatives' election pledge to end public subsidies for new onshore projects. The government is also set to change the law to give local authorities - rather than central government - the final say on wind planning applications. Interestingly, the Scottish National Party has been handed control of the select committee for energy meaning it may be expected to oppose government onshore plans in England.

Back in 2014, the then-Conservative junior energy minister Michael Fallon said there are enough bill-payer funded onshore wind projects in the pipeline to meet the UK's 2020 EU targets. He also said a Conservative government would change the law on onshore wind subsidies within six months following the election next year.

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