The United Kingdom’s largest political party will soon promise to indefinitely ban new onshore wind farms after the year 2020, according to a report in the Guardian.
The Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, will pledge to halt approvals of new onshore wind farms in exchange for a larger focus on more solar power and offshore wind, the Guardian reported. The positions will be released in the party’s official manifesto, a document which lays out key issues and views of the party’s leader.
The main argument against onshore wind — held by some, but not all members of the Conservative party — is that they are unsightly, a “blot” in an otherwise pristine countryside. Opponents also argue that government subsidies for onshore wind farms increase household bills.
Increased support for solar power and offshore wind investments will reportedly be included in the manifesto as well, as “an attempt to show that David Cameron is not abandoning the green agenda,” the Guardian reported.
“We are not going to allow the Lib Dems to characterize us as anti-clean-energy just because we want to control the number of onshore windfarms,” a senior Conservative party member told the site. “If anything we are mindful that uncontrolled expansion of onshore wind is alienating people from the whole clean energy debate. We think it is self-defeating.”
The U.K. has, as of recently, been a confusing place in the world of combating climate change through clean energy investments. When he took office, Cameron promised “the greenest government ever” — though his subsequent actions have caused critics to dispute this claim.
Skepticism brewed, for example, when Cameron last year appointed known climate denier Owen Paterson as his Environment Secretary. In addition, Cameron’s government in December announced generous tax breaks to the hydraulic fracturing industry, just one day after touting a green energy investment strategy that it said would bring $65 billion in renewable energy investment to the country. Treasury Chancellor George Osborne, who announced the fracking tax breaks, has for more than a year said the U.K. shouldn’t lead the world in reducing pollution from fossil fuels.
The Conservative Party’s anticipated pledge to increase solar power will also likely come with a condition — that they do not become as ugly as opponents say onshore wind farms are. Cameron’s energy and climate change minister Greg Barker, also a Conservative, on Friday announced separately that solar farms must not “spread unrestricted across the countryside,” according to a Guardian report.
Panels, Barker said, should instead be installed on top of homes, businesses, and other buildings.
“I do not want solar farms to become the new onshore wind,” Barker told the Guardian. “Solar power enjoys huge popularity, so we have to be careful. I do not want to see unrestricted growth of solar farms in the British countryside.”
The U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has already taken steps to restrict growth of both solar and onshore wind, in December announcing that it would cut government aid to both industries. That same announcement, though, included a plan to increase subsidies for companies that invest in offshore wind, hydro, and geothermal power. With those subsidies, the DECC said it expects an extra 2 gigawatts of wind capacity by 2020.
The government’s carbon budget mandates Britain to cut greenhouse gases 34 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.