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UK's 'perfect storm' for onshore wind will hit electricity users

UK: UK consumers will end up paying more for their electricity as onshore wind farm developers are caught up in a perfect storm of policy uncertainty and consent constraints, a renewable energy consultancy has warned.

EDF's 12MW Barmoor project in northern England (pic: Force 9 Energy)
EDF's 12MW Barmoor project in northern England (pic: Force 9 Energy)

Speaking at the launch of new renewable energy consultancy Everoze on 25 September, founding partner Colin Morgan said strict consent limits and an onerous consent process are hindering developers' ability to make their projects as efficient as possible.

"Onshore wind farms in the UK are within reach of grid parity," Morgan said. But developers will struggle to make their projects deliver best value for money if the planning system does not make changes to help them achieve that goal, he added.

"Tip height is the one that hurts the most," he said, as it prevents developers from choosing the most technologically advanced wind turbines. Restrictions on tip heights are used to address communities' concerns about planned local developments, he said, while considerations about the cost of electricity to consumers are ignored.

Limiting onshore wind farm development was a manifesto pledge in the electoral campaign of the Conservative Party, which won an outright parliamentary majority in May. Draft legislation in line with this pledge has since been released, including more decision-making powers for local communities where wind farms are planned.

From April 2016, onshore wind farms in the UK will no longer receive renewables obligation (RO) support under the government proposals. A moratorium on onshore wind being able to access support under the new contracts for Difference (CfD) system is also being mooted. An influential think tank has recently attacked government plans to cut subsidies for onshore wind for their potential negative impact on electricity prices.

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