The long-awaited Energy Bill was approved by Parliament last night with no amendments, after the latest bid to extend the grace period allowing wind farms to receive subsidies under the Renewables Obligation scheme was defeated in the Lords.
The amendment, which would have allowed an additional four wind projects in Scotland to go ahead, has been the subject of a long-running battle between the House of Lords and the House of Commons in recent months.
Opposition peers sought to extend the government's grace period criteria until 31 March 2017 for wind farms that had secured planning permission before 18 June 2015 and issued legal agreements by 18 September 2015.
But a final vote on the amendment was defeated by 204 votes to 109, and the amendment was subsequently withdrawn by Labour peer Lord Grantchester, who said it could well be the "end of the Parliamentary road" for the wind industry's efforts to maximise the number of onshore projects currently in the pipeline that could secure financial support.
"This issue will not go away," he told peers. "It goes beyond the few cases in the amendment. It concerns the lack of inclusion and the ability of the wind industry to take part in the future bidding rounds for contracts for difference... We remain as determined as ever that we will return to this, but we accept where we are now with the Government-they are not listening and they will not concede."
Defending the bill, Energy Minister Lord Bourne insisted the government is not in an "ideological battle" with the wind industry.
"We are not taking action for any ideological reason," he told the House. "We have massive deployment and that deployment goes on. But we are reaching the end of subsidies for solar and for onshore wind because they can be deployed without the subsidy."
He added: "The policy as set out by the Government strikes a fair balance between the public interest, including protecting consumer bills and ensuring an appropriate energy mix, and the interests of onshore wind developers."
A handful of wind farm developers, including leading green energy supplier Good Energy, have expressed interest in developing new onshore wind farms without subsidies. However, many developers remain adamant some degree of financial support is needed to deliver new projects, arguing the government is subsidising more expensive forms of clean energy while stopping cost-effective onshore wind farms from accessing subsidies that would impose lower costs on bill-payers.
The Energy Bill also contains measures to establish an independent oil and gas authority, as well as setting in law the closure of the Renewables Obligation subsidy scheme, a measure first announced in June 2015. The Bill will become law once it receives Royal Assent.
In statement Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd said the Energy Bill is a vital part of the government's plan to keep bills down while securing future supply. "By strengthening the Oil and Gas Authority and giving it powers to drive greater collaboration and productivity in the industry, this Bill shows that the broad shoulders of the UK are committed to helping our oil and gas industry attract investment, support jobs and remain competitive for the future," she added.
Hugh McNeal, chief executive of RenewableUK, urged the wind energy industry to now put the "pain" of the Energy Bill behind them and look to the future. "We need to look forward and find sensible ways to take advantage of wind power to ensure consumers' electricity bills are as low as possible," he said in a statement. "The overall cost of onshore wind is continuing to fall, with new onshore wind cheaper than new gas - even at a time of low gas prices. This shift has also been reported by Policy Exchange, Bright Blue and the Committee on Climate Change, which all confirm the low cost of onshore wind."