Minister will get tough on turbines
CONTROVERSIAL windfarms could be forced on East Anglian communities under new government plans which would ride roughshod over local objections.Energy minister Ed Miliband, speaking ahead of the launch of tomorrow's Renewable Energy Strategy, said wind turbines had to go somewhere and it was the government's job to “persuade” opponents to accept them.
CONTROVERSIAL windfarms could be forced on East Anglian communities under new government plans which would ride roughshod over local objections.
Energy minister Ed Miliband, speaking ahead of the launch of tomorrow's Renewable Energy Strategy, said wind turbines had to go somewhere and it was the government's job to “persuade” opponents to accept them.
His comments come in the same week that the government is announcing a package of green initiatives including the long-awaited decision on eco-towns on Thursday, of which Rackheath, near Norwich, looks likely to be among those given the go-ahead.
Mr Miliband, who was at the launch of the biggest onshore windfarm in the south of England yesterday at Romney Marsh, said Britain needs to diversify its energy sources in order to be less dependent on imported gas.
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He said although they had to find “the most sensitive places to have them”, wind turbines were necessary.
“We understand the objections. They can be legitimate objections but we do have a job of persuading people that we have got to get renewable energy somewhere,” he said.
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“We have to diversify our energy sources, we need home-grown energy so that we don't have to be dependent on imported gas as the North Sea is declining in terms of the gas it provides.”
He said reforms of the planning system were needed in the UK along with greater efforts to persuade people of the benefits of greener technologies amid fears households could be hit with higher bills.
His stance has angered campaigners, some of whom have spent years battling proposals.
Michael Windridge, South Norfolk councillor for Hempnall, who has been leading the Stop Hempnall's Onshore Wind Turbines (Showt) campaign against Enertrag's controversial plan to develop a seven turbine site overlooking the village, said: “I am pleased that Mr Miliband at last recognises the need to find the most sensitive places for onshore wind turbines.
“But the minister is deluding himself if he imagines onshore wind turbines are capable of providing a reliable source of renewable energy. Wind turbines are notoriously ineffective because wind blows intermittently and unpredictably.
“Even on the government's own figures, all of the 2,400 wind turbines so far built in the UK generate only just over 1.3pc - a minute fraction of the electricity we need, and less than the output of a single medium-size conventional power station.”
“A single large new gas-fired power station saves more CO2 than all our wind turbines put together.”
A national alliance of more than 30 local action groups against windfarm development in the countryside was launched in June.
The new group, known as the National Alliance of Wind Farm Action Groups (NAWAG), brings together community organisations from England, Scotland and Wales who are fighting to raise the profile of the issue.
It is estimated 200 plus action groups are in existence across Britain.
According to figures produced by Renewables East, the organisation charged with helping the region meet its green energy targets, at the end of last year there was 116MW of installed onshore capacity (68 turbines) generating electricity in the area.
Approved wind schemes not yet implemented amount to 46MW and some 182MW of projects are in the planning process, whether with local authorities or at appeal.
James Beal, managing director of Renewables East, said: “I think in the east we are still seeing a reasonable amount of planning decisions, the Ministry of Defence and aviation are perhaps the biggest constraint but planners have to make sure only the right schemes go forward.”
The EDP reported yesterday that the east was unlikely to meet its target of generating 10pc of its electricity from renewables by next year.
In 2008, the region produced 7.9pc of its electricity from green power - making it inevitable, according to the British Wind Energy Association, that the target will not be met.
Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson said he knew of an onshore wind application north of where he lives, in Guestwick, which had been ongoing for more than three years, with residents having to find the money to challenge it.
“I'm not saying wind farms are a waste of time,” he said.
“I think they have a part to play in meeting energy requirements in the future but equally, even if we try to reduce the amount of energy we use, and we can all do things to do that, to meet the growing needs of a country like the UK is going to involve nuclear.”
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he did not think a bid to “circumvent the democratic process” was the answer.
“I'm very much in favour of developing renewable energy and wind plays a part in that but we must not circumvent the democratic process,” he said.
“I went to Germany in the last parliament to look at wind energy and they are miles ahead of where we are. They have worked out a plan of where wind turbines could be sited, avoiding sensitive areas, so that regions know where applications can be put in and where is protected, which means avoiding a scenario where applications can be considered in a planning vacuum.”
The renewable energy strategy is also thought to outline an increase in green jobs which could be created from rises in green power.