Yesterday I attended a national windfarm opposition conference, the first organised by NOW – the National Opposition to Windfarm group that was launched earlier this year. The first thing I learned is that they are not an organisation as such: they are a parliamentary lobbying group consisting of Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE, QC; Neville Thomas QC; Sarah Corser, Alison Davies, Ann West and Sasha White. All have full time occupations but are united in wanting to oppose windfarms. They are raising funds in the hope that they can employ someone in due course to make the campaign even more effective.
I can’t hope to pass on all that was said but I’ll try and put across the key points from the speakers – if anyone has any queries please ask, I took copious notes to aid my listening skills!
1. Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry, former MEP. Has been opposed to wind farms for a long time initially because of his love for the English landscape. Whilst supporting opposition groups “planning” was a local issue until the Kelmarsh wind farm appeal decision said that National Policy trumped local planning policy. At this point he began a campaign lobbying his colleagues which led to the letter to the Prime Minister earlier this year signed by 106 MPs. He now has 160 MPs – of all parties) onside. The publicity around this was at the same time as Chris Huhn departed DECC and Ed Davey took on the ministers mantle. (General consensus during the day Mr Davey is more of a rational man than his zealous predecessor.)
CHH has used DECC’s own figures to show that in 2009 50,000 people went in to fuel poverty because of the wind element of their policies – this will have gone up since; it is not a figure that labour MPs (more likely to be in urban seats, so less likely to have a strong view on wind energy) like. He also pointed out that if ROCs are cut, as seems probable, the SNP’s energy policy will be deflated – another reason for Labour to support wind energy opposition.
The Treasury now see energy policies as harming our economic competitiveness – and is seeing shale gas reviving the USA.
CHH is hopeful of an announcement in subsidy cuts before the recess [which is why we're seeing so much from the wind industry and their Friends of the Earth, RSPB acolytes at the moment] but we need to keep up pressure on MPs and the Treasury so they know such a move would have support.
In addition to continuing to lobby Westminster he advised getting involvement with the local plans being drawn up under the new National Planning Framework – it is possible to have exclusion zones etc included.
Chris Heaton-Harris is also pushing for a review of the Planning Inspectorate in view of recent decisions and their increased remit under the NPPF.
Warren Town – Lifelong trade unionist, currently Director of Industrial Relations for the Society of Radiographers, talked about energy policy in relation to employment, drawing the conclusions that there are very few jobs in the wind industry and almost none for locals in relation to a wind farm. Those there are are transitory or occasional.
In the UK there are 30 million employed people, 1.5 million unemployed. There are 944 thousand specialist green jobs. The vast majority of theses are in SME – ie companies which are most likely to rely on cash flow, or go under. He sees no indication that onshore wind is going to result in any jobs. Seimens now only talk of offshore.
Wind Energy developers talk of many benefits to the area of a proposed windfarm:
Transport improvements – who needs roads wide enough for turbine blades?
Planning and open Spaces – local contractors cut down trees and drain land – temporary
Environment – landscaping, to make it attractive – temporary.
Investment – the “Community Fund” – does not create jobs, temporary.
At the moment there are 20k offshore jobs in Denmark, 30k in Spain, 80k in Germany and 9,200 in the UK. In the long term there will only be maintenance and R & D jobs. Denmark, for example has job prospects as their strategy is to export their turbines and export their workers to install them.
This government does not have a strategy for UK or UK industry – so no-one is investing in training etc. You cannot have a BUSINESS model for energy – this chases profit and damages industry.
Figures show that wind provides 2.2% of UK energy, with a target of 15% by 2020. At current rates of subsidy and job creation this will require £60 billion investment to create 160,000 jobs.
Sasha White is a leading junior member of the planning bar and author of “Planning Appeals” textbook.
Talked about the huge industry with vast resources that we are up against, that an appeal lost or won is no big deal to them; that because policy trumps law this is what we need to challenge at national level.
National Planning Policy Framework – contains the presumption in favour of sustainable development, which includes wind turbines. However; there is a growing political recognition of resistance, a recognition that local communities matter, an aim that central government no longer impose decisions on locals plus the recent judgement from Mrs Justice Lang that the Planning Inspector had correctly decided that Renewable Energy policy does not require primacy over local landscape policies. She also ruled that the two policies are not incompatible, but require a balancing exercise. This judgement is important, however is pre- the NPPF.
Local Planning Authorities are to produce development plans; these should have a positive approach to energy from renewable and low carbon sources – negative impacts should be addressed. Applicants for such schemes will NOT have to demonstrate the value as even small schemes make valuable contribution. Applicants are to have early engagement with local communities before submitting applications.
NPPF reduces 1,000 pages of planning policy to 55 pages, it is likely that policy will be decided by Inspectors as they make their decisions, but judgements under previous law as well as new guidance coming through will be used.
Mr White suggested decommissioning bonds should always be sought, as they are necessary to avoid wind farms falling where they stand after they have been passed from owner to owner. It also is likely to add significantly to costs for developers. It is worth including related infrastructure, such as pylons reasonably connected to the development in request for bonds.
Dr John Constable told conference that the cost of the current energy policy would be £13 billion by 2020. Even if capital costs of wind energy fall to zero, integration costs will make it more expensive than gas etc. The Treasury now classifies ROCs (Renewables Obligation Certificates) and FITs (Feed In Tarrifs) as tax, and therefore constitute public expenditure. Current HMT caps are not compatible with meeting EU targets, therefore appear to accept they will not be met.
Wind farm building rates v Windfarm construction rates are falling – due to the industry holding back on investing in construction costs, already fearing their profits will be cut by policy change?
DECC contend that some policies (renewables) increase energy costs, others (Green Deal) reduce costs, resulting a net (7%) reduction in domestic bills by 2020. Their own figures disprove this. Because of DECC current policies domestic gas prices are set to rise by 7%, domestic electricity costs by 27%. For industry their policies have an even worse impact – increases of 11% and 34% respectively. Apart from the terrible impact of these figures at economically tough times, the deception from a government department is shocking. (See slides for even more detail and the background figures.)
Some of the Green Deal cuts are based on Products Policy. These are simply Efficiency standards based on EU regulations around TVs, fridges etc, anticipating energy use savings of 27%… and yet a third of these assumed savings are based on regulations not yet agreed and assume a lot of people are going to replace a lot of kit in 8 years!
Dr Constable put forwards a strong case for returning energy policy to a Business department, and Climate Change to Defra. As it stands policy presented by DECC is assumed to have balanced the needs of business and the environment – which of course it hasn’t; debate is therefore halted before it has begun.
Since 1990 global carbon emissions are up 40%. Climate Change Agenda – whatever its merits – has failed because the green movement has bullied governments into expensive and ineffective policies.