Tories Care More about UKIP Threat than Consumer Bills
Remember ‘Vote Blue, Go Green’? David Cameron promised to bring a progressive environmental agenda with him into Downing Street. After four years in government Cameron has been reported to want to ‘cut the green crap’ and has allowed the Treasury to act accordingly.
Quite a turnaround.
The latest evidence of the complete abandonment of the green agenda by the Tories is the announcement that they would place a moratorium on onshore wind if they win a majority. This move would destroy jobs and investment in the UK, and importantly will increase energy bills by increasing reliance on expensive offshore wind.
Still it seems a price worth paying if it somehow strengthens their right flank which is under attack from UKIP. Concern for consumers, logic and sensible policy-making abandoned for political expediency.
But how deeply is this nonsense supported within the Conservatives. I wanted to find out what my local Tory MP thought about it. My exchange of letters below reveals:
(a) a complete disregard for the increased cost to consumers of the policy; and
(b) that local communities should have the final say on wind projects, running directly against the current Tory practice for Eric Pickles to decide renewable planning applications in Whitehall.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that the Conservatives lack any interest in consumer bills, but the inconsistency in the rhetoric and the policy on localism is particularly disappointing. A suggestion for a slogan for the next election:
‘Vote Blue, Go Anywhere UKIP want us to’
Here are the letters in full:
I am writing urge you to contact those involved in writing the Conservative manifesto for the next General Election, to warn them of the cost of not supporting the onshore wind industry.
I am one of the nearly 19,000 people in this country whose job is connected to the onshore wind industry, so the thought that a moratorium could be imposed on future development of onshore wind is of great concern to me. This coupled with anti-democratic powers taken by Secretary of State Eric Pickles to “call in” planning decisions for onshore wind projects, irrespective of the recommendation made by local planners, is threatening jobs.
As I’m sure you are aware, onshore wind is the lowest cost low carbon generation that it’s possible to develop at scale – cheaper than other renewables and new nuclear, and without it – we would need to rely on more costly options to meet our existing and binding 2020 & 2050 targets, risking driving up consumer bills, which nobody wants.
Decarbonisation aside, much of the UK’s current generation capacity is reaching the end of its life, and in view of our record levels of imports of coal and gas, developing onshore wind capacity in the UK will also reduce our reliance on imported energy source to keep the lights on.
Finally, much of the criticism of onshore wind seems to be because politicians think that voters do not support it. Whilst I recognise that some people do not like the look of turbines, a poll last year by the Mail on Sunday (http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/MailEnergyFinal.pdf) revealed that the overwhelming majority do. 60% of Conservative voters would be happy to have a windfarm in their area, as would nearly the same percentage of UKIP voters. This also translates to the ballot box – one third of Conservative voters said they would be more likely to vote for a local candidate who backed wind farms in the area compared to 29% who would be less likely to. This, and another poll also revealed that three to one Britons would rather live near a wind farm than a fracking site (http://www.forexminute.com/fracking/poll-more-people-prefer-to-live-near-a-wind-farm-as-opposed-to-fracking-site-29021).
Playing politics with onshore wind leads to great uncertainty for people like me, but also the wider energy industry – on previous occasions when there have been political rows about onshore wind organisations like the Institute of Engineering and Technology and the CBI have warned about the dangers of an investment hiatus.
I would be very grateful if you could let me know your position on this important issue. Further I urge you to contact your leader and the Conservative manifesto team to appraise them of my concerns, and include any feedback in your response.
Ps. I have attached a stunning view of the Westmill site at Watchfield taken this weekend. In the right place, and on the right scale these facilities can add a huge amount to a landscape as well as providing jobs for the community.
Thank you for your email about wind farms.
I recognise the need for renewable energy generation as part of a balanced energy mix. If we are to protect Britain’s energy security, cut emissions and ensure, long-term, affordable supplies of energy, renewable energy – alongside nuclear, gas and carbon capture and storage – is an important component of our energy future.
As one of the oldest renewables – and one of the least expensive – onshore wind makes its contribution to the UK energy mix. It now delivers power to four million homes. Under Coalition plans, it will deliver power to three million more by 2020.
This onshore wind power will help us meet our 2020 renewable energy targets, which are legally-binding under EU law.
However, while wind farms play an important role in supporting our renewable needs, I also appreciate that they can cause considerable consternation for many local communities.
This is why the next Conservative Government, having already delivered enough wind farms to secure our renewable energy targets, will give more power to local communities to have their say on wind farms and ensure more weight is given to the importance of the local environment and landscape.
Thank you once again for taking the time to contact me.
Ed Vaizey MP
Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries
Member of Parliament for Wantage and Didcot