Coaliton tangle on wind farms

20 Nov

Photo by Juliet Phillips and Chris Hansell

By Chris Hansell

A hidden camera video is the latest twist in the coalition’s long internal battle on wind farms.

Last week Greenpeace released a video of Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris at the conservative party conference last month. On their website Greenpeace claim that ‘Heaton-Harris had encouraged a rival candidate to stand against the conservative party’ in the recent Corby by-election.

This may or may not be true, since the candidate they refer to, James Delingpole, withdrew from the Corby by-election weeks before polling day.

So what does all this have to do with wind farms?

James Delingpole, a blogger for the Telegraph, has written extensively about climate change and the follies of onshore wind farms. Earlier this year Chris Heaton-Harris organised a letter, which was signed by more than 100 Tory MPs, saying onshore wind farm subsidies should stop.

While we’re talking about renewable energy it’s worth mentioning John Haynes, Minister of State fo Energy, who attracted headlines earlier this month when he told the Daily Mail that ‘enough is enough’ for onshore wind farms. Back on the Greenpeace video Haynes was name dropped by Heaton-Harris.

The Daily Mail went out of their way getting a surprising amount of political figures to comment on the Hayes interview. Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint was quoted as well as a campaigner from Greenpeace. Lord Lawson told them ‘an additional problem is that wind power is one of the most expensive forms of generating electricity there is.’

The 2010 study by global engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff does suggest that electricity production for offshore wind farms tends toward a higher range of costs than most other electricity. Onshore wind farms however aren’t especially expensive in comparison to more traditional energy like coal or gas turbine.

The Daily Mail is not wrong to say there are a lot of onshore wind farms springing up across the UK. But surely the creation of renewable energy sources is not about how much it costs to make them. We might be meeting agreed European Union targets but the likes of Spain and Germany are still far ahead of us.

Statistics from European Wind Energy Association

EU Wind power capacity in Megawatts

Heaton-Harris and his hundred MPs singled out the subsidy for onshore wind farms, which the treasury placed a future 10% cut on over the summer. Onshore wind is of course not the only form of energy that gets support from the government though. Back in February the OECD published a report on fossil fuel subsidies. According to the Guardian, who highlighted the report, fossil fuels are subsidised more than double that of renewable energy.

Chris Heaton-Harris is set for a ‘dressing down’ this coming week, says the Telegraph, and has already had a meeting with Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps. You may remember Mr Shapps from this recent carry on.

Government energy policy looks a little unclear from where I’m standing. When David Cameron said in 2006 he wanted to make his premiership the ‘greenest government ever’ this was not what I expected.

EU Wind power capacity in Megawatts

EU Wind power capacity in Megawatts


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