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You can't take the politics out of wind energy debate

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

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It would be quite wrong to call Danny Alexander a liar. But the idea that yesterday's subsidy cut in onshore wind and solar power had no political motivation is hard to believe. Mr Alexander, as a Liberal Democrat First Secretary to the Treasury, may fervently believe that onshore wind has a big role to play in meeting the UK's obligations on climate change. But does his boss, the Chancellor George Osborne, or Prime Minister David Cameron share those passionate green views? We doubt it.

Energy has become a political football in recent months. From Ed Miliband's pledge to freeze prices if Labour comes to power to the barely disguised spat between Conservative Owen Paterson at the Department of the Environment and Lib Dem Ed Davey at Energy, the divisions over how we generate our power and how much we have to pay for it looms large across the green benches of the House of Commons and in the corridors of Westminster.

So, with the greatest of respect to Mr Alexander, of course, there was a political motive behind the reduction in subsidies to wind farm developers just announced. Many residents of the Westcountry, who have battled the property devaluation and landscape damage that the largest turbines undoubtedly cause, can take the credit for forcing ministers to wake up to the deep unpopularity of onshore wind, especially in areas of great landscape value.

UKIP too, which has come out strongly against onshore wind energy, has also forced the hand of the Tory-led coalition as have conservation bodies like the CPRE and outspoken MPs, including the independent-minded Sarah Wollaston of Totnes, who has bitterly attacked the massive solar 'parks' that have gone up in parts of her constituency.

Some environmentalists may regret that the wind farm opponents have found their voice and started to influence policy. Yet that is how democracy works. Politicians need principles, but they also need to be pragmatic and listening to the people affected by onshore wind farms and giant new solar developments is important for politicians with ambitions to win re-election. There is a certain irony in the fact that subsidy for offshore wind is getting a boost, just a week after RWE dropped plans for a development in the Bristol Channel. Overall, however, shifting subsidy to turbines offshore will be politically popular – and Danny Alexander knows it.

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  • PAWB46  |  December 07 2013, 10:11AM

    Unfortunately, energy policy in this country has, for about the last 20 years, been determined by politics and not by a pragmatic approach, which would first and foremost be to provide a reliable and affordable supply of electricity. We are heading for a massive crisis, where the supply of electricity will not meet the demand (although this might be deferred as demand falls when people increasingly find they cannot afford to use electricity - excess winter fuel deaths as old people have to chose between heating and eating, will also reduce demand). Meanwhile, in the fantasy world inhabited by politicians, the deck-chairs are being rearranged before the next election. Nobody in the three "main parties" is getting a grip on devising a sensible policy for the furture needs of all electricity consumers (both business and the people). UKIP is the only party which has a credible energy policy, and CPRE is the only organisation campaigning against the destruction of our countryside by usless wind turbines and solar farms.

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