PLANS for four onshore wind farms in Powys were rejected by the UK government on Monday 7th September, with the Welsh government Environment Minister Carl Sargeant declaring the decision “short sighted” and “hugely disappointing”.
Mr Sargeant claimed the wind farms would have brought millions of pounds and opportunities for new employment, and that their refusal puts the energy supply at risk. Plans for a fifth onshore wind farm in Llandinam was approved; however, the rejection of the corresponding plans for an overhead power line from the wind farm has put the viability of the project at risk.
A Planning Inspector previously recommended approval for two of the four proposed farms at Llanbrynmair and Carnedd Wen. However, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) launched a public inquiry from June 2013 to May 2014 due to public opposition and local protests. The issues raised included: the wind farms’ potential impact on local biodiversity and traffic, and the public complaint that they would present an eyesore. A DECC spokesperson said, “Careful consideration has been given to each application, and the planning and energy issues involved.”
Mr Sargeant drew attention to the disparities between the Welsh and UK governments’ approaches to energy sources:
“In Wales, we are pro-wind power and renewable energy – in the UK government and under the Conservatives, [they are] pro-fracking, which we are certainly not.”
The plans for further devolution will enable the Welsh government to make decisions concerning energy projects such as this, over 350 megawatts. RES Group development manager Mike Whitbread said in a statement:
“Wales has a clear need to develop a home-grown and secure source of renewable energy to replace dwindling fossil fuel supplies, and onshore wind is the most cost-effective and reliable means of achieving this goal. It is therefore very difficult to understand why such a well-designed project has been turned down. This is a sad day for wind energy in Wales and for local communities in Powys.”
The Conservative government has been criticised for its approach towards the renewable energy industry since gaining power in the May election. The DECC has announced the early closure of the Renewables Obligation subsidy in 2016, alongside the recent end of the Climate Change Levy exemption for renewable energy schemes, and a more than 80% reduction in tariff payments for some domestic solar roof schemes.
David Clubb, director of RenewableUK Cymru, stated that:
“Given the blows the UK government is raining down on the renewable energy sector on both consents and subsidies, ministers will be heading to the Paris climate discussions with their credibility in tatters.”
The UK government claims that reduced support for renewable energy schemes is financially necessary due to the decreased costs of the technology and the schemes’ popularity.