by Bob Duncan
The UK coalition’s split on onshore wind farms is threatening renewables investment and jobs, the SNP has said, after the Department of Energy and Climate Change issued lines rebutting their own minister.
Tory energy minister John Hayes has reportedly been “slapped down” by his Lib Dem boss Energy Secretary Ed Davey, after claiming the UK had “enough” wind farms and suggesting future projects would be blocked, in direct contrast to Mr Davey’s backing of renewables.
The Tory minister, who is in charge of “renewable energy deployment”, is understood to have wanted to announce a moratorium on new wind farms in a speech on Tuesday evening but was prevented from doing so by Mr Davey.
Instead, he told the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph there were enough wind farms in the planning pipeline to meet UK government environmental targets – and there should be no more.
He said: “We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities. I can’t single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land.”
Mr Davey hit back, saying he was in charge of energy policy and the wind farm policy had not changed. “The government is still committed to renewables including onshore wind,” he said.
“They are the cheapest available major renewable source and as the Prime Minister made clear today in the House of Commons the policy on renewables hasn’t changed.”
“There will still be lots of investment in onshore wind farms,” he added, saying they were vital as a “clean” and “secure” alternative to oil from other countries as North Sea oil diminished.”
Mr Davey refused to answer when the question “Is John Hayes just wrong then?” was shouted at him by reporters.
Shadow UK energy secretary Caroline Flint, for Labour, accused Mr Hayes of “playing politics” with clean energy jobs and the country’s energy security.
The split comes after companies wrote to the UK Government earlier this month complaining that UK Government uncertainty was holding back investment.
Yesterday, the Scottish government announced that half of its domestic electricity requirement would be met by renewable sources by 2015, its 2011 targets having been exceeded.
The Scottish renewables industry which employs 11,000 people in Scotland, has brought in £2.9 billion of investment since 2009 and latest DECC statistics show that it saved the equivalent of 8.3 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2011.
Almost two thirds of the UK’s 6858 MW of installed onshore wind power capacity is in Scotland.
Dennis Robertson, SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire West and deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, said:
“The difference between the Scottish and UK governments could not be starker. The SNP Government has given the industry a clear message on the development of clean green energy that is delivering much-needed jobs and investment to communities across Scotland.
“This is compared to the omnishambles that is engulfing the UK Government with Government Ministers contradicting each other and the DECC press office putting out lines contradicting their own Minister. Don’t they know that the ‘Thick of It’ finished at the weekend?
“This full-blown split in the Tory-LibDem coalition is causing alarm in the renewables sector and threatening renewables investment.
“The DECC is in a state of utter shambles, with a Tory energy minister saying he wants to put the brakes on renewables while his LibDem energy boss saying the complete opposite.
“No wonder Scotland is seeing so many renewables companies making investments and creating jobs.
“David Cameron’s comments that Scotland needs Westminster to boost renewables is now coming back to haunt him – today’s events clearly show it is the opposite that is true.
“On the same day as these comments the SNP Government announced it surpassed its 2011 electricity generated by renewables target.
“We have set a new target that will see Scotland will now generate the equivalent of half of our electricity demand from renewable sources by 2015, putting us well on our way to an equivalent of 100 per cent by 2020.
“The renewable energy industry is already delivering thousands of jobs and millions of pounds of investment, and will continue to expand in years to come.
“Decisions over energy should not be left to a split Westminster government but should be made in Scotland, by a Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament, 100% elected by the people of Scotland.”