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Groups join up for new wind farm debate

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 25, 2012

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A new community energy network has been set up in the South West to give groups a stronger voice in the national debate over wind farms.

The project has been launched as the Department for Energy and Climate Change stages a consultation on how communities that host onshore wind farms can secure greater financial, social and environmental benefits from schemes.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: "Far too often, host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall."

Independent experts Regen SW said it was working with the Government and international partners to develop and coordinate the new network.

Merlin Hyman, Regen SW chief executive, said: "Community energy groups are springing up across the South West to generate secure, sustainable energy and create local revenue streams to put back in the community.

"Regen SW's new Community Energy Group Network will bring these groups together to have a stronger voice with Government and to share lessons in what works."

Ministers are seeking new information on several issues. They include how wind farms could deliver wider environmental and social benefits to communities, ways to maximise the role of local businesses in the economic supply chain and innovative ways to reward host communities, such as offsetting electricity bills.

The Government is also gathering new information on the cost of onshore wind to confirm whether subsidies from April 2014 have been set at the correct level.

Mr Ed Davey said: "Onshore wind has an important role to play in a diverse energy mix that is secure, low carbon and affordable.

"We know that two-thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind. But far too often, host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall.

"We are sensitive to the controversy around onshore wind and we want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited near to them.

"This new call for evidence will look at ways to reward host communities and ensure that wider investment, employment and social benefits are felt locally."

Energy Minister John Hayes said: "This call for evidence is a recognition that both parties in the coalition are alive to the need for fresh thinking about community engagement on onshore wind.

"Appropriately-sited onshore wind has a role to play, but if we're to make this work in a way that garners popular support, we've got to see a big improvement in how developers engage with local communities, new ways of ensuring a sense of local ownership and more obvious local economic benefits.

"It's an opportunity for anyone with a view about onshore wind – proponents and opponents alike – to come forward with workable ideas and solutions."

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