Labour pledge to lift ‘ban’ on onshore windfarms

Ed Miliband tells energy industry execs that lifting de facto ban on new green energy projects would be ‘one of my first acts’ as Energy Secretary.  

At a speech today at the International Energy Week conference held in London, shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband set out a bold new vision for green energy in the UK. Among his top priorities, he said, was to end the effective ban on new onshore windfarms. 

Wind turbines at sunrise

Photo by Eric Schmuttenmaer

Mr Miliband said: ‘With a Labour government, you will know as businesses and investors that capricious decision-making will not rule out your technology. The current government could overturn this ban very easily. But there is a culture of inertia and stasis. 

‘Difficult decisions are ducked. Consultations are used to avoid decision-making. This institutional inertia is just not good enough – it blocks business investment and drives up bills for the British people.’ 

This is welcome news after Labour earlier this month backed out of a previous flagship commitment to spent £28bn a year on green initiatives. Some have questioned whether another commitment, to decarbonise the electricity grid by 2030, is realistic. 

Yet despite these misgivings, there’s a revolution going on in the way we source energy. According to government figures, 42% of the UK’s electricity generation in 2022 came from renewable sources – up from just 7% in 2010. These sources are greener and cheaper than traditional fossil fuels, and less prone to the sudden rises in price that we’ve seen in recent years. 

That’s what made the ‘ban’ on new windfarms so frustrating for many in the industry. Between 2015 and late last year, onerous rules contained within the government’s National Planning Policy Framework effectively prevented new onshore wind projects. 

One rule required local authorities to produce detailed plans of all possible sites for such projects before one could be approved. Another rule meant that a proposal could be stopped if just a single person objected. 

The devastating result of this was spelled out in analysis by Cardiff University: in the five-year period 2011-15 (before these rules were imposed), planning permission was granted for 435 new turbines; in the period 2016-20, that figure was merely 16. 

Admittedly, the government recognised an issue here and in September last year amended the rules to give local councils and communities more scope to approve such proposals – and to reap the benefits from such projects, too.  

However, as the Guardian revealed, despite this change, no new proposals had been submitted by the end of the year. For some in the industry, there’s still too much uncertainty and lack of encouragement from government here and in green policy more generally. In effect, that means the ‘ban’ remains in place. 

Of course, if Mr Miliband is right and the issue can be addressed ‘very easily’, the Conservative government could steal his thunder and make the necessary changes now, ahead of the looming general election… 

In related news:

New data on London properties at risk from heat 

Heat networks for Bolton, Exeter, Greenwich and Hull

Buxton battery stores energy for 90,000 homes 


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