Amber Rudd says 250 proposed wind farms are now "unlikely to be built" following cuts to subsidies announced last week
Ending onshore wind farm subsidies will save hundreds of millions of pounds, energy secretary Amber Rudd has said, as she confirmed that 250 proposed projects were now "unlikely" to get built.
Ms Rudd announced last week that a key subsidy scheme, the Renewables Obligation, would be shut down a year earlier than planned, although projects which already had planning permission and other conditions could still get built under a “grace period”.
The policy is a key part of the Conservatives' manifesto pledge to end new onshore wind subsidies.
Ms Rudd told MPs on Monday that the energy department estimated that about 7.1 gigawatts of the onshore wind capacity proposed across the UK “will not be eligible for the grace period and is therefore unlikely to go ahead”.
“That equates to about 250 projects, totalling about 2,500 turbines, that are unlikely to be built,” she said. “The onshore wind projects that are unlikely to go ahead could have cost hundreds of millions of pounds.”
Most of the projects still seeking planning permission were not in fact expected to get built under the Renewables Obligation scheme anyway, and were instead hoping to secure subsidies through a new system of subsidy contracts.
Ms Rudd’s comments are the clearest indication yet that these new subsidy contracts will also be ended for onshore wind farms.
Asked by MPs to confirm as much, Ms Rudd said the Government would be “implementing the terms of our manifesto” in respect of the contracts.
Industry sources suggest Ms Rudd may be holding back from categorically ruling out subsidies through the new system due to concerns doing so may fall foul of EU state aid rules.
Ms Rudd also pledged that she would continue to “consult colleagues in the Scottish Government” on the proposed change and disclosed she would meet Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing on Wednesday.
During questions in the Commons, Ms Rudd also appeared to suggest that energy companies would no longer be able to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate if local councils rejected their planning applications.
Ms Rudd and Greg Clark, the communities secretary, have already pledged to give local communities the “final say” over onshore wind farms.
Ms Rudd was asked by Kit Malthouse MP if she could “reassure those worried communities that that means that they cannot now be overruled by the Planning Inspectorate?”
Ms Rudd responded: “Yes, I can”.
But a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said developers would still be able to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
“Ministers have been clear that onshore wind energy developments should only get the go-ahead if it is supported by local people through local and neighbourhood plans. Developers will continue to have the right to appeal planning decisions, But any appeal would have to take into account this clear requirement for local backing,” she said.