Wind farms may be coming back to a hill near you: Rural landowners fear push for green energy in response to the Ukraine crisis will see planning rules eased
Ministers are poised to relax planning rules for onshore wind farms, despite warnings it will spark a rural backlash.
Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to double the rate at which new wind power is installed in the UK as part of a push for renewable energy in response to the Ukraine crisis.
A Whitehall source said the scale of the ambition – to be set out in a new energy security strategy next week – is too great to be met by offshore wind alone.
‘We are going to need some more onshore wind,’ the source said.
Ministers are poised to relax planning rules for onshore wind farms, despite warnings it will spark a rural backlash. (File image)
Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to double the rate at which new wind power is installed in the UK as part of a push for renewable energy in response to the Ukraine crisis. (Above, the PM visits the Scottish Power Carland Cross Windfarm in Newquay, Cornwall, in June 2021)
‘It is clearly the cheapest renewable energy available and it is also the quickest to install.
Shell revives its bid for new North Sea gas field
Shell has revived its plan to open a major new North Sea gas field as ministers scramble to reduce dependence on foreign energy.
The energy giant’s initial proposal for the Jackdaw field was rejected by regulators last year on environmental grounds, but has been amended.
It comes as the Government has promised to boost the North Sea in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
Jackdaw could supply 6.5 per cent of the UK’s gas output. Shell aims to have it in production by the end of 2025.
The latest version of Shell’s plan will be subject to a 30-day consultation and will then be reviewed to the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning.
A final decision on the project could be made in three months.
‘We have basically had a moratorium on onshore wind for the last seven years. But a lot has changed and that is no longer sustainable.
‘If we are going to diversify away from Russian oil and gas and produce more green power in the UK quickly then we have to look at every option, and that includes ending the effective moratorium on onshore wind.’
Applications to install onshore wind farms in England have slumped by 96 per cent since the rules were tightened in 2015 in response to opposition from Tory MPs and countryside campaigners.
Next week’s strategy will include a review of strict planning rules which make it almost impossible to get approval for onshore sites.
A Government source said the move was ‘the single biggest change’ in the new strategy.
But the plan is likely to prove highly controversial.
Former energy minister Sir John Hayes, who drove through the 2015 restrictions, last night urged ministers not to relax the rules or risk upsetting ‘very large numbers of voters’.
He told the Daily Mail: ‘There is really very little to be said for onshore wind farms.
‘They do enormous damage to the character of the countryside and the landscape, there are real questions about their impact on wildlife and even human health, they reduce house prices and, most of all, the transmission costs in getting the energy from often remote areas to where it is needed mean they are very inefficient.’
The energy security strategy has not yet been signed off by ministers and could yet slip until later this month.
Other elements will include:
- Issuing at least six licences to exploit new gas and oil fields in the North Sea;
- A pledge to review the science around fracking to establish whether it is possible to extract shale gas without the risk of causing earth tremors;
- Approval in principle for a third new nuclear power station on Anglesey;
- Extending the life of the Sizewell B nuclear plant by up to 20 years, along with shorter extensions for existing coal-fired plants;
- Giving the green light to the development of major ‘solar farms’ on agricultural land.
Shell has revived its plan to open a major new North Sea gas field as ministers scramble to reduce dependence on foreign energy. It comes as the Government has promised to boost the North Sea in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. (Above, the aftermath of an explosion in Lviv, western Ukraine, on Friday)
The Prime Minister hinted at the new push for wind power this week during a trip to the Gulf.
Mr Johnson said moving away from Russian oil and gas would mean a ‘massive jump forward on renewables’ as well as ‘more nuclear and using our own hydrocarbons more effectively’.
Trade body RenewableUK has called on ministers to double the amount of onshore wind – equal to installing a further 11,000 turbines.
Its chief Dan McGrail said: ‘Under the current system, unlike other planning applications, onshore wind projects in England can be rejected if one single person objects to them going ahead –that needs to change if we’re serious about securing our energy independence and reaching net zero as fast as possible.’