Wind Wire: Change of tack

The UK government appears to be ready to adopt a more interventionist approach to energy, admitting that, after years of policies that relied on free energy markets, the market alone will not deliver the green energy needed to meet the country's climate change goals.

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"The days of an energy policy of: let's leave it to the market and the market will take care of it, are over," energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband tells The Times newspaper, although he adds that dynamic markets and private investment will remain central to future energy policy. Miliband points out that while some people still believe that government should not pick winners among energy technologies, "government does need to give people a sense of its vision for the energy mix and for the grid." Powerful business secretary Lord Mandelson, giving a speech on climate change, also says that market dynamics alone will not create the shift to a low carbon economy quickly or effectively enough and that there needs to be a partnership between the market and state in driving the transition. "It is also going to mean public sector interventions to ensure that Britain has the necessary infrastructure to support low carbon technologies." That includes the national grid, says Mandelson. This month the government is to publish a white paper setting out its renewable energy strategy as well as policies for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 30 local groups opposed to wind developments have joined up to fight the spread of wind farms across Britain. Launched in the middle of the UK wind industry's Wind Week, the National Alliance of Wind Farm Action Groups (NAWAG) claims it is giving a voice to communities "in the face of the highly resourced pro-wind lobby." Its chairman Jonathan McLeod says: "For too long the greenwash of the wind industry has gone unchallenged and that stops today. As anyone who has come up against the pro-wind lobby will tell you, behind wind power's cuddly image lies a cynical and harsh reality." McLeod is also chairman of public relations firm Weber Shandwick, currently advising Viking Energy on its plans to build a 540 MW wind farm on Shetland. He became involved in the anti-wind movement when opposing a proposed wind farm near his Derbyshire home. NAWAG hopes to recruit the 200 other anti-wind farm organisations that are fighting plans for wind projects. "Communities up and down the country are simply not prepared to stand by and let our landscape be disfigured by wind turbines that will do little or nothing to stop climate change, less still secure our energy supply," says McLeod.

Siemens is the preferred supplier for the turbines for Airtricity's Clyde project in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, which, at 456 MW, will be Europe's largest onshore wind farm. Airtricity says that over £200 million (EUR237 million) of the contracts for the £500 million (EUR592 million) project will go to Scottish companies. This includes an order worth some £10 million (EUR11.8 million) for Welcon Towers to supply the turbine towers. Welcon is a subsidiary of the Danish Skykon group and recently set up shop at the previous Vestas factory at Machrihanish. Preparatory works have started on site with full construction beginning later this year. The 152 turbines at Clyde will be installed in phases on either side of the M74 motorway near Abington. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond says: "The sheer scale of the Clyde wind farm reflects Scotland's ambition and ability to become the clean, green energy capital of Europe." Scottish government targets are to meet 50% of electricity from renewables by 2020, with an interim goal of 31% by 2011.

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