Last year was a tumultuous one for the UK wind industry. Whether it was the Energy Minister John Hayes declaring no to more turbines or having to deal with subsidy cutbacks at the time of a bruised economy – it was a year of setbacks. However, through the streams of endless articles there was one story that stood proud.
On September 14th, wind farms were producing 11% of the UK’s electricity – even more if you take into account turbines not connected to the national grid. This proves that wind energy can play a leading role in our future energy mix but are there ways we can ensure this continues against the backdrop of public negativity?
A new local electricity tariff could answer the call.
The first ‘local tariff’
Good Energy, the Wiltshire based company who deal in providing electricity from 100% renewable sources, have just announced a local tariff for all households within a 2km radius of their own wind farm in Delabole, Cornwall. This allows participating homeowners to receive a 20% reduction comparable to Good Energy’s regular electricity tariff. This is obviously beneficial to business, but underlying the decision is their vision of putting communities at the heart of renewable energy generation – something of paramount importance in a wind industry of the future.
In a year which culminated in all of the ‘big 6’ energy suppliers increasing their tariffs, it comes as a welcome change to hear an energy supplier offering a reduction as well as providing positive press for wind farms. It is evident that the public feel strongly about the visual impact, and overall benefit, that come with wind turbines – coupled with the large initial investment needed, some do not believe wind energy is a viable energy option in our fragile economic state.
However, people opposed to turbines might feel differently if their issues were not only recognised but addressed via a discount on their tariff. Is it possible to extrapolate this scheme of financially rewarding locality to wind farms throughout the UK?
The bigger picture
Although this case is unique in that Good Energy own the wind farm, I believe there is scope for similar schemes, but it’s dependent on energy companies and wind farm developers working with local communities rather than against them, creating the belief that ‘we are in this together’.
If initially this sounds like a far cry, then I agree. But upon further thought, you realise that potentially there lies economic gain for all involved parties. Firstly, once initial payments have been covered, energy companies who invest in wind farms will have access to a steady stream of consistently priced electricity, along with acquiring new customers attracted by the potential of reduced energy bills.
This will create demand for more wind farms which the developers can satisfy, but only to the extent that local communities give the green light. Hence, providing them with a financial incentive, or local tariff, could help gain the go-ahead. Yes, it’s a simplified chain of events, but one that is not completely out of reach.
Changing public opinion
With Hampshire operating a blanket ban on all wind farms within the county and Lincolnshire favouring towards following suit, now is the time to find an agreement between local communities and wind farm developers before this trend continues. Clearly the current system for creating operational wind farms is struggling, so the introduction of local tariffs would, at the very least, be a constructive way of tackling the problem.
Whatever your view of fossil fuels, we need an increase in energy supplied renewably, and fast. This will allow a reduction in CO2 emissions and also tackles our legally binding emission cuts as part of the EU. Spending years squabbling over whether a single wind farm should be granted planning permission is not in our best interest. Wind energy can help satisfy our energy needs but public opinion needs to switch before strides forward can occur – and facilitating a scheme of local tariffs could reignite this change.
A landmark study in the struggle to contain climate change, the greatest challenge of our era. I urge everyone to read it.”Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States of America. Since it first appeared, this book has achieved a classic status. Reprinted many times since its publication, it remains the only work that looks in detail at the political issues posed by global warming. This new edition has been thoroughly updated and provides a state-of-the-art discussion of the most formidable challenge humanity faces this century.If climate change goes unchecked, the consequences are likely to be catastrophic for human life on earth. Yet for most people and for many policy-makers too, it tends to be a back-of-the-mind issue. The Politics of Climate Change
Nathan Shaw holds a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Bath but has since concentrated on pursuing research in worldwide environmental issues. With a particular interest in the science of Climate Change and it’s effect on developing nations, he plans to undertake a Masters of Research degree in September. Nathan is currently involved with local environmental organisations in his home county of Dorset, England - aiming to inform and educate people on the benefits of a sustainable life.