Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Local residents to receive incentives to allow wind farms

Local residents who allow wind farms to be built in their neighbourhood will be rewarded with lower energy bills, the Tories have promised.

By Rosa Prince, Political CorrespondentPublished: 8:00AM GMT 30 Nov 2009
By offering incentives to communities to encourage them not to object to planning bids by wind farm developers, the party believes it could end the often bitter disputes which currently thwart many green projects.
As well as lower gas and electricity bills for up to 25 years, residents would be invited to share in the proceeds of business rates paid by wind farms for six years after they were built.
Communities will also be offered shares in local wind farms, allowing them to become part-owners and enjoy a stake of the profits.
Developers would be likely to offer shares as a way of avoiding getting “bogged down” in planning rows.
In a speech at Oxford University, Greg Clark, the shadow energy and climate secretary, criticised Labour’s handling of residents who opposed green technologies, saying their only tactic was to shame them into giving way.
He said: "Onshore wind is often a divisive subject, riven by bitter planning disputes – which are bad for climate change policy, bad for the wind power industry and bad for local communities.
“Labour's only solution is to demonise anyone who has the temerity to object. As well as being wrong, this is obviously counter productive.
“What the government should be doing is finding ways to solve some of the problems that lead to stalemate.
“I would argue that wind farm applications are often bogged down because there is no clear benefit to local communities in hosting them.
“But, in its characteristically centralising mindset, this government has made little effort to try and unlock any such benefits to local communities for hosting wind farms – instead seeking to demonise people when communities have objected.”
Mr Clark singled out Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, who he accused of failing to offer residents positive reasons to accept a wind farm in their area.
He said: “Ed Miliband has said he thinks it should be considered as socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your areas as it is to drive over a zebra crossing without stopping.
“Conservatives are determined to find ways to allow communities who participate in renewable energy projects to share in the rewards that comes from doing their bit.”
Mr Clark said that a 10 megawatt wind farm involving five large turbines would pay around £72,000 a year in rates back into the local community
There are also plans to allow residents lower energy bills for the duration of a local wind farm’s life, which usually last around 25 years, and “empower” communities by offering part ownership of farms.
In Denmark, 86 per cent of wind farms are partly owned by locals, with more than 100,000 families having shares.
Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of the British Wind Energy Association, welcomed the proposals.
She said: "We have long called for localisation of business rates which we believe would bring great advantages to local communities."
John Sauven, chief executive of Greenpeace UK, added: "These are constructive proposals that will enable the benefits of wind power to more clearly shared by the communities that host them.”
Adrian Snook, of Stop the Spin, which campaigns against wind farms, said: "I am sure this more even-handed approach will be welcomed by rural communities.
“Opinion polls consistently show that 80 per cent of people express strong public support for the notion of harnessing wind energy, with only 10 per cent opposed.
“However rural communities deeply resent the unfair and one-sided terms associated with the actual planning proposals put to them by the power industry and in turn by central Government.
“Rural people would like to feel good about wind energy, but the current administration has robbed them of any opportunity to so.”
Martin Harper, Head of Sustainable Development at the RSPB, added: "Today's announcements by the Conservative Party on renewable energy are a genuine step forward.
"Greg Clark showed that this revolution can be achieved without riding roughshod over the needs of the natural environment or ignoring the voices of local people."