United Kingdom

United Kingdom

UK onshore installations rise despite Conservative government

UK: Since the Conservative-led coalition came to power in the UK in 2010 the government has sought to restrict the development of onshore wind, however data shows installations have actually increased.

The government has promoted offshore wind while being critical on onshore development
The government has promoted offshore wind while being critical on onshore development

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According to data from Windpower Intelligence, the UK's wind capacity has risen by over 1GW in both 2013 and 2012. This compares with the 560MW commissioned in 2008, and 781MW in 2009.

This did however, follow a dip in installations during the first full year of Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2011, when only 538MW was brought online.

The increase in online capacity is contrary to the Conservative Party's numerous statements and policies aimed at restricting the development of onshore wind. The government has introduced changes to consenting regulation that has complicated the approval process. 

But Gordon Edge, director of policy for industry body RenewableUK has an explanation for data. He explained: "What we're really seeing here is the benefit of the Renewables Obligations that have been in place since 2002. The rise in installations is primarily due to the projects that went into planning before the last election, so it's momentum carried forward."

Figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change show that the proportion of onshore wind proposals that have been rejected by the government has increased 57% since 2009.

This is seen as a result of the greater involvement in consenting by secretary of state for local government Eric Pickles. He extended the period of time during which he can personally rule on appeals against decisions to block onshore wind farms.

The party has also pledged to end wind subsidies if it is in power after the next general election in 2015 and to give local councils more power in approving new projects.

But examining the capacity brought online as a percentage of total capacity operating at the start of the year, a slightly different picture emerges. In 2008, this increased by 27%, and by 30% in 2009.

2011 saw this fall to 13%, and while it recovered somewhat over the following years, it only reached 26% in 2012 and 19% in 2013.

Edge does accept that there is likely to be a tail off in onshore installations in the coming years but not solely due to difficulties in the consenting system. He points towards the budget allocation for the newly introduced Contracts for Difference subsidy regime that saw only £50 million put aside for established renewable energy sources.

At current prices, he estimates that this would allow the installation of 600-800MW a year if it went solely to onshore wind, which is unlikely considering solar projects are likely also draw from this pot.

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