Kwasi Kwarteng appears likely to lift a de facto ban on new onshore wind farms after the UK government said it would align planning consent with that for other infrastructure.
It has been very difficult for onshore wind farms to get planning permission since David Cameron introduced a strict consent regime in 2015. Earlier this year Kwarteng lobbied for the restrictions to be lifted, but he ran into opposition from the cabinet.
The regime will now be relaxed, with the Chancellor’s growth plan stating: “The government will unlock the potential of onshore wind by aligning consent with other infrastructure. The UK is a world leader in offshore wind, with 8 GW of offshore wind currently under construction. By 2023, the government is expected to increase renewable energy capacity by 15%, supporting the UK’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.”
Although the government has trumpeted its decision to allow companies to explore fracking further, few experts believe it is likely to produce much gas in the near future. Unlocking the potential of onshore wind projects could be a much faster and more productive way to increase electricity supply and help bring prices down.
Some Tory MPs oppose wind farms as a blight on the landscape, but public attitudes are much more supportive of the technology.
Jess Ralston, senior analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “The onshore wind ban – which around eight in 10 people support – has been a major anomaly in the British energy policy given that it is both cheap and popular with the public. So a decision to lift the ban suggests the new government has listened to the experts and understands that building more UK renewables reduces our reliance on expensive gas and so lowers bills.
Sam Hall, director of the Conservative Environment Network, said: “We warmly welcome changes to speed up the planning of offshore wind farms, lift the ban on English onshore wind farms and fund renewable energy costs inherited from taxation Renewable energy and insulation will not only permanently reduce bills and accelerate progress towards net zero, but will strengthen our energy security and protect the UK from Vladimir Putin’s weaponization of Russian gas reserves.