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Is the UK's Wind Energy Industry Facing Problems Ahead?

29 Jan 11:00 by Steve Walia

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Britain brought a record amount of new onshore wind capacity online in 2017, but changing government policy has led to hesitation in the industry and risked the spectre of rising consumer bills, the industry has warned Theresa May.

After the government prematurely ended the subsidy scheme for new wind energy, 2.6GW of fresh capacity was brought online last year across the UK as developers accelerated projects to ensure they would be eligible for incentive payments. This compared to 1.3GW in 2013.

However, Renewable UK has warned that future prospects for the industry are bleak since the government has banned onshore wind farms from competing for lucrative subsidies. The industry trade body expects that fresh capacity installations will drop to 0.94GW in 2018 and to just 0.37GW in 2019.

The Executive Director of Renewable UK, Emma Pinchbeck, said that investment levels in the last three years had secured record levels of new capacity and ensured that onshore wind became the UK's cheapest power source. However, the current government policy meant that the industry was missing out on further development, and it was affecting the ability of customers to enjoy lower energy bills.

David Cameron made the onshore wind-farm subsidy ban one of his core manifesto pledges in the general election of 2015. This followed the Conservative Party responding to constituents in the shires who opposed to further onshore wind farm developments.

Ministers have since shown that they might be ready to soften their stance so that British electricity bill payers do not continue to lose out on a reliable, cheap and clean power source. However, there is no sign as yet that the energy policy will be adjusted to ensure that renewables can compete for government subsidy arrangements alongside traditional and polluting fossil fuels and nuclear power.