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January 17, 2012

A Lot of Hot Air!

By Spear's

Part of Spear’s Save Britain’s Historic Landscape Campaign

by Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry

I have been contacted by a huge number of people who have been following the slow progress of my 10 Minute Rule Bill that, if enacted, would allow local authorities to determine their own exclusion zones for wind-turbines from dwellings.

In the last few days I decided to move the date that this was due for possible discussion back from Friday 20th January, 2012 to 30th March, 2012. A number of people has asked why?

Well the simple reason is that it was 13th on a list of debates to be taken and normally on a Friday only the top two items get an debate at all and then all the others either fall, or you have to delay them. So there was absolutely no chance my Bill would have been debated and my best bet was to gamble and move it to the last possible Friday sitting day of this session and hope the Government decides the House should sit on this day.

Realistically though, I don’t think this Bill will see any debate before this Parliamentary session closes and I’ll have to reintroduce it (or something similar) in the new session, after The Queen’s Speech.

However, I should be candid: whilst I do believe in what my Bill is trying to do, my real reason for introducing it was not just to stop the scourge of wind turbines being built within close proximity of people’s home, or across areas of outstanding natural beauty – my main aim was to try and get the Government to stop for a few weeks and fundamentally review its massive support (through subsidy) for a renewable technology that I believe does more harm than good.

Whilst we are unable to store the energy turbines produce, by pressing on with this policy, we are disrupting the grid and doing precious little to stop emitting carbon. Indeed, there are recent studies that suggest that if you take into account the manufacture, transportation and decommissioning of your average on-shore wind turbine, you don’t save on carbon emissions at all.

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Most people understand that the wind doesn’t blow when you require it to and thus you need 100% backup generation – and that should the wind stop blowing suddenly, to ensure there is no dip in supply, you have to burn carbon fuels inefficiently. Add to that their general lack of efficiency and you have to wonder why the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) are so keen on them.

Recent decisions by the Planning Inspectorate allowing two extremely controversial wind farms in my constituency – one, indeed, where the planning inspector actually acknowledged the huge damage the turbines would do to an area that dominates the land on which the Battle of Naseby was fought – have basically stated that even if you win your battle against a wind farm on every planning issue, you can still be trumped by the UK’s green targets for reducing carbon emissions. Thus, whilst I am still going to be pressing for change through the planning system – my target has to move to getting the Government to review how it might achieve hitting a target that most other EU countries will miss by miles.

Actually, I don’t have a problem trying to hit the target; it really is the method we are trying to use.

Being in Government is all about making choices. I strongly believe that nuclear energy is the way forward and we must move quickly forward in rebuilding our nuclear power stations. For those that are not keen on nuclear, I would suggest you ask the communities that house existing nuclear power stations (and those that want to house them in the future) why they do. It is because they are extremely safe (we are not on a geological fault line) and they bring lots of good jobs with them.

We do need renewables too.

Recently DECC caused controversy by cutting the subsidies to some renewables. It cut the subsidy to wind by 10% and to solar by 50%. Why the big cut to solar? The subsidy had been too successful in attracting people to use the technology! I can quite understand why the Government didn’t want huge solar farms ruining the British countryside, but this cut also hit big solar initiatives that would have decked out the roofs of many big warehouses across the country and provided a reliable source of energy. It even has stopped some councils and housing associations sticking solar panels on their housing stock, which would have provided cheaper energy for those who can least afford to pay for it and reduced carbon emissions.

So, the question has to be asked – why did DECC not change the rules to ensure the solar subsidy was not abused by huge solar projects, but allowed the other investment that was going ahead to continue, but just cutting solar by 25% or so and pay for this by reducing the subsidy for on-shore wind?

In fact, why not also encourage more local solutions, like small-scale biomass and why not insist on getting homes properly insulated using money from the massive subsidies that are still available to promoters of on-shore wind.

My view is simply that DECC officials seem to only have eyes for wind energy. Fair enough, it was the only game in town for a number of years and it has a massive and powerful lobby behind it (unlike all the newer and better renewable technologies); but policy in this area needs to be constantly evaluated, so that the taxpayers’ subsidy gets the most value.

The only conclusion I can now draw is that this is a matter of policy.

To this end I have invited all Conservative MPs to a meeting on Tuesday 24th February to see how many MPs agree with me on this and to discuss what we can do politically. If enough come along, then I’ll contact MPs from other Parties to see if they can do the same, so we can determine what common ground there is and how many MPs would be willing to take political action to change policy in this area.

Some might argue that I should have done this some time ago. The truth is I was hoping that Localism would sort out these problems. Following the planning inspector’s decision in Kelmarsh, l’m no longer sure this will be the case.

So now we have to change the mindset of DECC….

First published at

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