Clegg rebuffs call for cuts to wind subsidies

7th February 2012


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The deputy prime minister has reiterated the government's commitment to renewable energy after backbenchers called for dramatic cuts to onshore wind subsidies

Joining the newly appointed energy secretary Ed Davey on his first official assignment, Nick Clegg rebuffed criticisms in an open letter signed by 106 MPs that stated it was unfair for taxpayers to subsidise the "inefficient and intermittent" energy source and urged the government to instead shift subsidies to other renewables and energy-efficiency measures.

Following a Downing Street statement reacting to the letter, which argued that onshore wind was a cost-effective energy option, Clegg made a speech clearly signalling the government's belief that the UK's financial future was tied to its ability to make headway in the renewables sector.

"The race is on to lead the world in clean, green energy," he said. "The choice for the UK is simple: wake up, or end up playing catch up. In today's world the savviest states understand that going for growth means going green."

Clegg went on to argue that the UK's combination of wind, wave and tidal power, strong research base and history of engineering give the country a competitive edge.

"We’re already in pole position," he argued. "But the reality is: we need to sharpen our elbows if we want to stay ahead."

“I want the UK to be the number one destination for green investment. We’re in this race to win it.”

His speech came just 24 hours after the backbenchers' letter was published by the Sunday Telegraph. The MPs, who are almost exclusively Conservative, also complained that proposed changes to planning under the new National Planning Policy Framework and recent planning appeals, threatened communities’ ability to halt proposals for new wind farms.

“Recent planning appeals have approved wind farm developments with the inspectors citing renewable energy targets as being more important than planning considerations,” they wrote. “Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that it is impossible to defeat applications through the planning system.”

However, Davey, who last week replaced Chris Huhne, followed Clegg’s speech confirming that there would be "no change in direction or ambition" at DECC, with his key priorities being green growth and job creation.

"I have long believed in the need to marry our economic and environmental agendas," he said. "By focusing on the low-carbon industries of the future we can rebalance our economy, reducing our dependence on the City of London, and on oil and gas imports from unstable parts of the world."

The speeches were warmly welcomed by representatives of the renewables sector as confirmation the government would not bow to pressure from backbenchers. Maria McCaffrey, chief executive of marine and wind energy trade body RenewableUK, said the news was a vote of confidence for the sector.

Meanwhile Gaynor Hartnell, chief executive at the Renewable Energy Association, said: "Onshore wind is one of the most cost-effective renewables in the UK. If we cut back on our aspirations for it, the overall costs of renewables will increase because we will have to draw on more expensive technologies instead. We are pleased to see Clegg and Davey all standing firm in their commitment to wind."

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