Sunak tipped to harness energy goldmine and slash bills this week

Onshore wind farms: Simon Hart on future of renewable energy

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The Government is primed to U-turn on its decision to ban onshore wind farms this week, as Mr Sunak faces growing pressure from Conservative MPs. Ministers could make an announcement on making potential “tweaks” to the levelling up bill, which could end the de facto ban on onshore wind farms in the UK. Since becoming Prime Minister, Mr Sunak has backtracked on his predecessor Liz Truss’ plans to boost growth by scrapping red tape around onshore wind farms in Britain. Under those scrapped plans, the construction of wind farms on British soil would have been in line with other infrastructure projects, allowing the country to harness a major new renewable energy source. 

At least 34 MPs have called on Mr Sunak to change tack on planned onshore wind farm laws as a wing of the party feels the ban on new developments is the wrong move amid an energy crisis.

While the Government at first seemed to push back against the pressure, on Monday, the culture secretary, Michelle Donelan, gave the strongest hint yet that the Government was prepared to lift the ban.

This campaign was led by the former levelling up secretary Simon Clarke and has received backing by former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, as well as the former chief whip Wendy Morton.

Speaking to GB News, Ms Donelan said that changes to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill were set to be announced by Levelling up minister Michael Gove before the bill is returned to the parliament. 

She said: “The Government is listening to colleagues around this amendment and I’m sure that there will be some announcements made by the levelling up secretary in the days to come.

“Members from around the house put down amendments, including senior members of parliament, and then there are discussions between ministers and those members.

“And there are tweaks sometimes made to bills, sometimes people stand their amendment down because they haven’t realised the other elements of the legislation. It’s all part of the legislative process.”

The Guardian reported that 34 MPs have backed the amendment, which would threaten the Prime Minister’s majority as Labour backs the amendment, placing Mr Sunak at risk of a Commons defeat.

Reacting to these reports, Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, Mike Childs, said: “Lifting the ban on onshore wind in England is a no brainer. It’s cheap, clean, plentiful and popular with the public – and has a key role to play in tackling the cost-of-living and climate crises.

“Earlier this month Rishi Sunak pledged to make the UK a clean energy superpower. It’s time to start delivering.”

On Monday, the business and energy secretary, Grant Shapps, said that there would be more onshore wind projects built in areas “where communities are in favour of it”.

However, recent polls suggest that more communities would be in favour of wind farms nearby than the Government believes. A recent YouGov survey found 9 in 10 (87 percent) people would support a wind turbine in their community if it meant cheaper energy.

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According to the latest research by BloombergNEF, onshore wind is one of the cheapest and quickest forms of energy to build costing about $46/MWh.

Alice Harrison, Fossil Fuels Campaign Leader at Global Witness, said: “It’s outrageous that in the midst of an economic crisis, a climate crisis and Russia’s war in Ukraine – all crises caused by our dependency on fossil fuels – that it is even being debated whether the UK should boost investment in renewable energy.

“It shouldn’t take political infighting for this Government to be dragged to a blatantly common sense position. If this Government is serious about the green transition, it needs to go further.

“It needs to deploy any additional revenues collected under our windfall tax on energy companies towards a massive scale-up of clean energy, and support our call to close the tax relief loopholes on big oil and gas companies in the North Sea.”

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