In a move that could effectively end the building of new onshore wind farms in Britain, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has announced that no new wind farms will be given the go-ahead without the permission of local communities. She has also promised to kick start a shale gas revolution.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Rudd said that she had “put a rocket” under Department of Energy and Climate Change officials, to “put the local community back in charge” of their neighbourhoods.
In the run up to the General Election, the Conservative party promised to halt subsidy payments to the operators of new on-shore wind farms. The legislation to do so is set to be included in the Queen’s speech later this month, along with a measure designed to remove the power to grant planning permission for wind farms from a centrally administered quango, handing it to local planning authorities which will be forced to consult with the local community first.
“It will mean no more onshore wind farm subsidies and no more onshore wind farms without local community support,” Rudd said. “I’ve put a rocket under the team to get it done, putting the local community back in charge. We’re looking to do the primary legislation as soon as we can. Local planning authorities combined with no new subsidies will put local people in charge . . . there will be a much more accountable democratic process.”
However, it is not yet clear whether the sign off will be granted by elected councillors or council planning officers, potentially leaving the process susceptible to green fads within the public sector.
Rudd admitted that personally she quite liked the look of wind farms, but conceded that it wasn’t feasible to foist them on communities. “We can’t have them on a scale in areas where people don’t want them,” she said, adding: “We can’t aim for having the perfect green community while irritating and upsetting local communities.”
Rudd hopes that the new legislation will be passed by parliament by the middle of next year, but it’s not all good news for those protesting a local wind farm: the legislation won’t cover the 4,000 existing wind turbines, nor the 3,000 turbines which have already been granted permission but are yet to be built.
She also spoke of her ambitions for shale gas in a Conservative majority government. Her predecessor as Energy Secretary was Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, who lost his seat in last week’s Lib Dem bloodbath at the polls.
Although he was widely considered to be fully on board the green energy revolution, Rudd says Davey was “committed to shale” but “struggled to bring some members of his party with him. Quite a number of them appeared to be completely anti-shale.
“With a Conservative majority I believe we’ll be able to deliver shale, as we’ve always wanted to do, in a safe but beneficial way.”
She suggested that the government is looking at how to pass secondary legislation to allow shale gas extraction to take place under national parks, although drilling within the parks will continue to be banned. Rudd also wants to see communities affected by drilling better compensated. Currently, they are expected to receive an average of £800,000 per well.
“We’re determined to get as much as we can out for the local community,” she said. “They have to see there’s a good reward in it for them.”