The government must reform its policy on onshore wind if the UK is meet its net zero emissions target by 2050, utility companies including EDF, SSE, and Siemen Gamesa have suggested.
In a letter addressed to new energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng, renewables companies and energy trade bodies urged the government to reverse its 2015 decision to exclude onshore wind farms from Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions.
The letter, released Tuesday, notes that onshore wind is the largest generator of renewable electricity in the UK, meeting the annual consumption of more than 7.25 million homes. The sector also supports thousands of highly skilled jobs.
On-shore is also the lowest cost source of new energy generation and will be crucial to decarbonising the UK’s energy supply to meet our net zero target with minimal cost to consumers.
The letter cites a recent Committee for Climate Change (CCC) report suggesting that meeting that target at the lowest cost to consumers will require deploying as much as 35GW of onshore capacity by 2035. The UK currently has 13GW of onshore capacity.
But further deployment of onshore wind could slash 7% from consumers’ energy bills, saving household £50 a year.
Meanwhile, it would support 31,000 jobs and promote invest in the UK supply chain, which could deliver £360 million in exports.
The letter states: “The onshore wind industry wholeheartedly supports the UK Government’s commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Such an ambitious target requires effective and timely policy making to make it achievable and affordable.
“We therefore urge you to establish a new onshore wind strategy at the soonest opportunity which embraces the creation of new jobs across Great Britain, delivers substantial investment and economic benefits and lower energy bills for every household.”
The exclusion of on-shore wind from government-backed CfD auctions has previously been described, by Renewables UK, as an effective ban, restricting on-shore wind farms from competing for government support.
The signatories of the letter, which also include Scottish Renewables and Vestas, want the government to reconsider the strategy and allow on-shore wind farms to vie for contracts.
They also urged the government to revise planning laws to allow for the use of the most modern and efficient turbines in high-wind locations.
The letter noted widespread popular approval of onshore wind, including the government’s own Public Attitudes Tracker, which found 79%.
The Conservative Party has long opposed new onshore wind deployment, but, as the letter highlights, recent polling by the Conservative Environment Network found that 74% of Conservative voters support onshore wind.
In January, then-energy minister Claire Perry dismissed calls to reverse the CfD policy, noting that the Conservative government was elected on a manifesto opposing subsidies for onshore wind and suggesting the industry was advanced enough to not require public support.
In response to the letter, a spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “Onshore wind has been deployed successfully to date in the UK and can continue to be, where it has local support. Onshore wind recently exceeded our expectations and met early its contribution to our 2020 renewable energy target.”