SNP will fight Tories over lifting wind farm subsidies, energy spokesman indicates
Fergus Ewing says scrapping subsidies would be ‘irrational’ in comments that could undermine Tory manifesto promise to ‘halt’ spread of onshore wind farms
Fergus Ewing MSP, who holds the brief in the Scottish Parliament, said removing such subsidies was “irrational” and could cost taxpayers up to £3 billion.
While subsidies remain a reserved matter with the UK Government, the SNP have demanded a veto over the policy in Scotland.
It emerged last week that UK ministers will consult with the Scottish Government over lifting the subsidy, raising the prospect of English consumers having to pay for new wind farms in Scotland.
The Conservatives pledged to “halt the spread of onshore wind farms” in their election manifesto, explaining they had failed to “win public support”.
However the majority of onshore wind farm projects awaiting planning permission – 1,642 out of 2,836 turbines – are in Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon has demanded a veto on David Cameron’s plans
Mr Ewing, Scottish Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, indicated that the SNP would oppose the proposals in a new consultation which was launched at the Queen’s Speech last week.
He warned on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme that there was a “headlong rush by the UK government to make apparent policy statements regarding scrapping new subsidies for onshore wind without a proper engagement either with ourselves or with the industry”.
“It’s our view that it is irrational to reduce or even scrap on shore wind subsidies when in fact … onshore wind is clearly still the most cost-effective large-scale way of deploying renewable technology in the UK. Economically, therefore, why would you want to bring that to a premature halt?”
Quoting figures from Scottish Power, Mr Ewing added: “If you prematurely bring onshore wind to a halt you will end up costing UK consumers an extra £2-3bn and you will end up having to deploy more expensive technologies.”
He said bodies like Scottish Renewables and UK Energy had said privately they are “very, very concerned” about the plans and the warned the move could prove “costly, irrational, and even expose the taxpayer to the risk of judicial review”.
While Mr Ewing fell short of pledging the SNP will block the proposals outright, his comments will disappoint Conservative voters.
The Tory manifesto read: “Onshore wind farms often fail to win public support, however, and are unable by themselves to provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires. As a result, we will end any new public subsidy for them and change the law so that local people have the final say on wind farm applications.”