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United Kingdom

UK government considers softening onshore stance

UK: The UK government might be rethinking its opposition to onshore wind, following recent reports from energy ministers at the party conference.

Innogy's Goole Fields onshore site - England's latest onshore addition
Innogy's Goole Fields onshore site - England's latest onshore addition

This week, the governing Conservative Party held its annual conference. At two separate fringe events, ministers from the department of business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) indicated their support to expand onshore wind in the UK.

According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, and other media outlets, minister Richard Harrington, whose portfolio includes low-carbon generation, said he saw "no reason" why onshore wind should not compete to for support, so long as the correct planning guidelines are in place.

Meanwhile, Harrington's BEIS colleague Claire Perry said onshore wind has a role to play.

RenewableUK's executive director Emma Pinchbeck welcomed the government's indications it may soften its stance: "I think the message on cost has got through," she said.

"While I was at the conference, a number of Conservative members of parliament expressed their support for onshore wind, because they're focusing on consumers' bills and they know that onshore wind is the cheapest way of generating new power.

"Having seen the record-breaking fall in the cost of offshore wind, we now need to discover how much the cost of onshore wind has fallen too — and that hasn't been possible for over two and a half years because it's been excluded from competitive auctions.

"There are plenty of opportunities coming up for the Government to make it clear that cheap onshore wind has a role in our modern clean energy mix, with projects going ahead in places where it has public support.

"We're awaiting the publication of the Clean Growth Plan, and Dieter Helm's review of energy costs commissioned by Government, as well as further announcements on the Industrial Strategy — all of these offer real opportunities for progress."

Minimal

In December 2014, the then-prime minister David Cameron said people were "fed up" with onshore wind projects.

Onshore wind deployment in the UK, and particularly England, has been minimal since the Conservative Party first won a majority in the UK parliament in May 2015.

The previous support system, the Renewable Obligation Certificates scheme, was closed a year earlier than planned by previous energy minister Amber Rudd.

Then, following the first Contracts for Difference auction in February 2015 — where over 748MW of onshore capacity won contracts at an average of £80.57/MWh (€110/MWh) — onshore wind projects were barred from competing in the second auction, awarded earlier this year.

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