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Onshore wind a “vital part of our plans” says Energy Minister

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Onshore wind is a vital part of Government’s plans to boost the UK’s energy security and decarbonise our energy system according to the Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Graham Stuart.

Confirmation of the role onshore wind is to play in our future energy system was provided as part of Government proposals to increase the range of benefits developers are able to offer local communities in England who want to support onshore wind farms in their area, such as discounts on energy bills. These would add to existing measures including a stake in a turbine, providing the potential to receive profits from the site’s operation, or funding for new community facilities, such as charging points for electric vehicles. 

Further highlighting the view that decisions on onshore wind are best made by local representatives, Government is also proposing that best practice principles of engagement, currently published by the government, are embedded into planning guidance for local authorities and developers to ensure the views of the community are heard and addressed, in line with their desire to relax the associated planning laws, announced in December.

The Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Mr Graham Stuart, said:

“Onshore wind is a vital part of our plans to deliver cheaper, cleaner, and more secure homegrown energy.

“It is right that new developments have the support of host communities, and that local people benefit directly from it, such as through either a discount on their energy bills or other significant community benefits.

“Our proposals will ensure developers and local residents can work together more efficiently to maximise community benefits for supportive communities while delivering the clean and secure energy the country needs.”

An example given, to further support the community benefits of onshore wind, was Tirgwynt Wind farm in Wales. When engaging with the local community, Belltown Power identified the need to support educational facilities in the area, resulting in the company providing £2.5m, which was match funded by the local council, to build a local school. The wind farm also hosts local children annually, to further their education on clean energy and the environment.

Government reportedly plans to work with RenewableUK to update their ‘Community Benefits Protocal for England’ to encompass “emerging and innovative types” of community benefit packages. The trade body’s Head of Onshore Wind, Mr James Robottom, commented:

“We’re pleased that the Government is consulting on the wide range of benefits which onshore wind can offer to local communities in England. We have a long track record of working closely with communities to ensure that they decide what form these benefits will take, depending on the needs and priorities of local people.

“Building strong relationships with local communities as early as possible is the best way to establish successful partnerships which last for decades. Alongside much-needed planning reforms, this consultation provides an opportunity to increase the amount of cheap clean power we can generate for consumers as well as strengthening our nation’s energy security.”

As one of the cheapest sources of energy – costs have roughly halved in the past decade –  many have asked why planning laws have placed an effective ban on new projects in England, especially at a time when additional homegrown energy is urgently required. 

The consultation also follows the news that wind turbines provided more electricity than gas, in the first quarter of this year, for the first time ever.

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