Would an onshore wind farm ban raise energy prices for consumers?

Tim Yeo, a Conservative backbencher, has claimed Tory plans to effectively ban new onshore wind farms will raise energy prices. Energy Switcheroo explores the MPs warnings, and how a ban of onshore wind farms would be likely to affect consumers.

To some the sight of onshore wind farms represent a blot on the landscape, whilst others think they are less of an eyesore than many other man-made constructions. However people think, onshore wind farms have caused a stir right at the top of government politics.

Tim Yeo, a senior Tory backbencher who goes regularly against his own party line, has vehemently predicted that any ban on onshore wind farms, will lead to serious higher energy prices for customers.

The Conservative policy of David Cameron appears to suggest that there will be no further subsidies for wind farms that are yet to gain planning permission. This would effectively stop any more onshore windfarms being built, as they rely heavily on subsidies to keep going.

The decision to stop subsidies for onshore wind farms seems strange, namely due to the fact onshore wind currently supplies 28 per cent of the electricity generated in the UK by renewables (DECC, 2011a).

That share is likely to rise, given the abundant wind resources available in the UK. The pressure would then be on offshore wind farms, which would certainly cost big money to develop. That money Yeo suggests will come out of the consumer’s pocket, as a result of “Blind unreasonable hostility” and “climate change sceptics.”

Onshore turbines are cheap renewable energy?

Onshore turbines are seen as one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy. Technological innovation is going to play a big part and consultants have identified more than 25 innovations that will be developed during the coming 12 years that will greatly impact on costs. These include taller towers, new lightweight materials for the blades, and grid control and high voltage direct current (HVDC) networks that will improve transmission of power over long distances.

The only viable argument against onshore wind farms therefore seems to be an aesthetic one. The fundamental question therefore remains – Is it worth the extra to put them all at sea?

UK committed to cutting emissions

Britain, which is supposedly committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions under European legislation, now has a difficult choice to make. Under the Climate Change Act (2008) and the subsequent carbon budgets, the UK is committed to cutting its annual greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2025. This will not be possible without a power sector that is almost carbon-free.

Britain needs several clean renewable energy sources.

Many Conservative politicians feel onshore turbines are inefficient, costly to build as well as unsightly, and prefer a more diversified mix of renewable sources, including offshore turbines.

However, as Tim Yeo argues, onshore wind farms are one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy:

“Turning our back on onshore wind as a matter of principle ignores the fact that it is good value for money.”

“Britain needs secure clean energy, but we should choose the most affordable and cost effective technologies, which include onshore wind,” Yeo concluded.

Turning our back on this cost-efficient source of renewable energy could therefore mean consumers end up paying more for energy in the UK.