One of the major issues facing renewables developers in the UK, especially those of onshore wind farms, is fighting through local planning problems. The British public (to generalise) has never been overly keen on the sight of mammoth wind turbines cluttering the green and pleasant land.
Previously, the answer to this has been national policy statements, which set out the national need for new energy infrastructure, so bypassing one test carried out by local planning authorities.
But the problem has never been that local authorities weren’t convinced by the need for nuclear plants or wind farms, but that local opposition was too strong.
When Chris Huhne, the UK energy secretary, announced last month that he was cancelling public funding for the Severn barrage – the massive tidal power project which was due to provide around 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs – it initially looked like the project was dead in the water.
But the government had left itself some wriggle room. As Sylvia Pfeifer reported at the time (italics mine):
Mr Huhne also confirmed there would be no state funding for the Severn tidal power project, saying the government did not see “a strategic case at this time for public funding”.
I broke the story this morning that since 2003, energy companies had been forced to sign potentially damaging contracts if they wanted to lease a part of the seabed on which to build an offshore wind farm.
The terms of the lease stipulated that the Crown Estate, on the government’s request, could force them to terminate the lease, without compensation, if the plot was needed for oil and gas works.
Today, energy minister Charles Hendry has been defending the system to the FT, saying he expected oil and gas companies to find a way of getting on with the offshore wind industry.
“We would expect compensation [from the oil and gas companies], getting them to find a way to work together.”