Wind Farm Subsidies (Abolition) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:55 am on 6th March 2015.

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Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change) 11:55 am, 6th March 2015

No, I am going to carry on.

If the hon. Gentleman had his way and we shut off support mechanisms such as the renewables obligation and contracts for difference, the UK would simply be more reliant on more expensive technologies to meet our crucial carbon emissions commitments. Those of us on this side of the House are committed to decarbonising at the lowest possible cost to the consumer. That is why we are committed to setting a 2030 power sector decarbonisation target, which will give investors the long-term certainty they need to invest.

Let me point out a few important facts. Last year, onshore wind generated over 5% of UK electricity generation, and the independent Committee on Climate Change estimates that onshore wind can provide over 15% of our power needs by 2030. Onshore wind generated over 16 TWh of electricity in 2014—enough to power almost 4 million homes. There is currently more than 8 GW of onshore wind capacity, with a further 1.2 GW under construction and more than 5 GW with consent. Last week saw the results of the first allocation rounds for CfDs. Labour supported the introduction of CfDs, as we did during the passage through Parliament of the Energy Bill. Cost reductions—which mean less subsidy, which translates into lower consumer bills—are real and are happening now. New onshore wind projects from 2016 to 2018 will produce power at £79.23 to £82.50 per megawatt-hour—less than other renewable energy technologies and less than new nuclear. The industry is committed to being the cheapest form of new large-scale electricity generation by 2020—cheaper even than new gas plants.

This is a job-creating sector: the onshore wind sector employs, directly and indirectly, 19,000 people in this country. Onshore wind is popular. The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s public attitudes tracking survey has found consistent public support for onshore wind. The latest figures show that 68% of the public support onshore wind, with opposition at only 12%. That is not just theoretical support for the concept of onshore wind. It is important to note that people support onshore wind developments in their communities. A

2014 ComRes poll found that 62% of people would be happy for an onshore wind farm to be constructed in their area.

It is, of course, crucial for local communities to be consulted, and to be fully engaged in any renewable energy development. The Government and, in particular, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government preach localism. However, the Secretary of State has taken Whitehall intervention in the planning system to unprecedented heights.

If I had a pound for every time I heard a Conservative Member criticise clean energy technologies for reasons that bear no relationship to cost, genuine public concern or engineering feasibility, I could personally fund the levy control framework for several years. The fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provided overwhelming and compelling scientific evidence that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activity, and that it will have devastating consequences if urgent action is not taken to cut our carbon emissions and invest in mitigation.

I would have welcomed the time to engage in a serious debate this morning about onshore wind, and about how we can increase investment and drive down costs. However, no debate on a Bill that would implement an effective ban on onshore wind can be a serious one. Let me repeat a question that I have asked Conservative Members before in the House. They do not like onshore wind, they do not like offshore wind, and they do not like solar. Are there any clean energy technologies that they actually support?

All modern economies face the same energy “trilemma”: how can we generate the energy that we need, which is clean, affordable and secure? Onshore wind delivers on all three counts. It is clean, it is on course to be subsidy-free, and it is based in the United Kingdom, boosting local economies and creating jobs.

Perhaps the hon. Member for Wellingborough’s queuing was not a waste of time after all. It has given me an opportunity to expose the Conservative party’s growing hostility to onshore wind, and to set out how the next Labour Government will work with clean energy developers to ensure that we have the affordable, secure and clean energy that our economy needs in order to succeed.