UK’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is reportedly considering lifting a longstanding ban on the construction of onshore wind farms. This contentious prohibition has hampered the industry for nearly 10 years.
It is speculated that policy changes may be introduced this week which would empower local authorities to approve the establishment of wind farms, provided they have substantial public support. This information emerged from inside sources.
Under the existing law instated in 2015, onshore wind farm projects in England could be halted by objections from even a single resident, making it almost impossible to implement such projects.
This move to reconsider the ban comes shortly after Liz Truss, the former UK Prime Minister, joined forces with 20 MPs from the ruling Conservative Party, including COP26 president Alok Sharma, in an attempt to repeal the ban. They had proposed an objection to the government’s ongoing energy bill discussions in the parliament.
After the summer break, MPs will be voting on the energy bill. With the Labour Party supporting Sharma’s proposition, all that is needed is an additional support of six MPs for the amendment to pass.
In an effort to avoid a setback for the government, ministers have reportedly been negotiating with MPs to reach a compromise. Ministerial discussions are expected to continue, leading potentially to a statement being presented in the parliament this week proposing changes to current rules to promote flexibility in planning and executing onshore wind projects.
Prime Minister Sunak, in the past year, hinted at the possibility of lifting the ban. However, subsequent proposed changes in planning rules in March resulted in a wave of disappointment across the UK wind industry.
Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer, proposed lifting the ban immediately and assigning local authorities the task of identifying suitable areas for renewable power projects such as wind and solar.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, UK celebrity chef and campaigner against the ban, stated on BBC that lifting the ban would be beneficial for energy security and cheaper electricity bills.
The climate think-tank, The Energy and Climate Change Intelligence Unit, estimated that the onshore wind ban had cost the country £800m during the previous winter’s energy crisis. The potential about-face on the ban comes at a time of great anticipation for the results of the contract-for-difference power deals for offshore wind farm projects.