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Onshore Wind Energy

Volume 541: debated on Thursday 8 March 2012

A responsible energy policy for this country is one that includes onshore wind. Well-sited wind farms, offering the benefits to local communities that we are introducing, are one of the cheapest ways of cutting our dependence on imported gas over the next decade and keeping emissions down.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Is he aware of the new blade tip generation technology, which is more efficient than traditional turbines and can be installed with no lasting adverse effect on the countryside? Will he support moves to manufacture this innovative form of renewable energy on the Isle of Wight in support of the eco island initiative?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s question. It is good to see examples of the economic benefits that wind power can bring. We are aware of companies developing new technologies for turbines, including for small-scale wind power generation such as the blade tip technology he cites. The support we provide for wind power generation in the UK will encourage use of appropriately sited and efficient wind developments.

Can the Secretary of State confirm that if we add the number of existing turbines to those going through the planning system, we have enough in place to hit his Department’s 2020 targets? If that is the case, does that not suggest that the level of subsidy for these things is too high?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He and I may disagree about the significance of onshore wind, but I appreciate the measured way in which he has engaged with me and the Prime Minister on this issue. I can tell him that 5 GW of onshore wind power generation has already been built, that there is planning consent for a further 6 GW and that planning permission is being sought for 7 GW-worth of projects, only some of which will be approved. Given that the ambition was for 13 GW, most of the development that the country needs is indeed already on the table. As for subsidy, the subsidy levels go down as costs go down, and we are proposing a 10% reduction in subsidies for onshore wind.

The previous Energy Secretary opposed the idea of limiting how close wind farms could be to homes and residential areas, as is the case in Scotland. What is this Energy Secretary’s view?

The hon. Gentleman will know that, as my right hon. Friend the previous Secretary of State said, this is a planning issue that needs to be determined at the local level.

Given the news the Minister has just given regarding the progression of energy production from onshore wind, can he assure us that wildlife migratory routes will not be inhibited by the establishment and development of wind energy production? I want to make sure that wildlife will not be harmed by energy provision and development measures.

I know that environmental impact assessments have to be done and I believe that those sorts of assurances have to be given.

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing his new position? He said that wind is the most efficient form of renewable energy, but what will the Government do to ensure that communities benefit from new wind energy projects?

First, we need to make sure that communities are listened to during the planning process, and the planning reforms will do that. We are committed to ensuring that local communities capture the full economic benefit from hosting renewable energy projects, particularly the retention of all the business rates that these installations pay.