Communities that host onshore wind farms could benefit from reduced electricity bills and investment in local infrastructure, Energy Secretary Edward Davey said today.
The comments came alongside the launch of a call for evidence aimed at ensuring that communities secure financial, social and environmental benefit from hosting onshore wind farms.
The community benefits consultation will seek new information on:
- Barriers to community engagement and how to address these;
- How wind farms could deliver wider environmental and social benefits to communities e.g. by providing grants for playgrounds;
- Best practice in local consultation by developers;
- Ways to maximise participation by local businesses in the economic supply chain for wind projects; and
- Innovative ways to reward host communities, such as offsetting electricity bills.
The Government will also seek the latest information on the cost of onshore wind to confirm whether subsidies from April 2014 have been set at the correct level.
Energy Secretary Edward Davey said:
“Onshore wind has an important role to play in a diverse energy mix that is secure, low carbon and affordable. We know that two-thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind. But far too often, host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall.
“We are sensitive to the controversy around onshore wind and we want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited near to them.
“This new call for evidence will look at ways to reward host communities and ensure that wider investment, employment and social benefits are felt locally.
“We must also ensure that our policies are based on the best available evidence, so that consumers are not over-subsidising any one technology. That’s why we are seeking new evidence on the cost of onshore wind.”
Energy Minister John Hayes said:
“This call for evidence is a recognition that both parties in the Coalition are alive to the need for fresh thinking about community engagement on onshore wind.
“Appropriately sited onshore wind has a role to play, but if we’re to make this work in a way that garners popular support, we’ve got to see a big improvement in how developers engage with local communities, new ways of ensuring a sense of local ownership and more obvious local economic benefits.
“The Government is open minded about how we go about this, and that’s what this call for evidence is about. It’s an opportunity for anyone with a view about onshore wind - proponents and opponents alike - to come forward with workable ideas and solutions.”
Notes for editors
- The documents can be found on the DECC website.
- The Government’s Renewables Obligation Banding Review was published in July 2012 with a commitment to undertake a call for evidence on community benefits and the cost of onshore wind.
- In 2011, onshore wind provided 3% of UK electricity supply. There are currently around 5GW of onshore wind (3,350 turbines) installed in the UK. Around 6GW of onshore wind are awaiting construction (2,682 turbines), with around a further 7GW in the planning system (3,063 turbines). Many of these in planning are in Scotland. Not all of these projects will be built - in England around half of all onshore wind projects do not receive planning approval. To meet the trajectory set out in the Renewable Energy Roadmap, we expect to need up to 13GW of onshore wind by 2020.
- Currently, the wind industry pays a minimum of £1,000/MW to communities, but in reality many provide larger benefits packages.
- Case studies - Onshore wind and community benefit
An Suidhe wind farm in Argyll
An Suidhe Wind Farm is located five miles west of Inveraray in Argyll. Construction started in January 2009 and it became operational in January 2011. An Suidhe is owned by RWE npower renewables which took control of developing the wind farm in 2005.
The model for the community benefit fund was chosen after a consultation process that included written feedback from five local organisations. This concluded that the area that the fund would primarily benefit would be communities within a 10km radius of the site. The fund would provide £28,500 annually (which would rise with inflation) and is administered by the Scottish Community Foundation. So far eight grants have been awarded including grants for the repair and improvement of a church, museum and village hall. The fund will have an economic impact through making these facilities more attractive and accessible to tourists. The fund will also have an impact through grants such as the one to assist the running costs of Cairndow Community Child Care.
Burnfoot Hill wind farm in Glendevon
Revenue generated from Burnfoot Hill Wind Farm has been used to support the Ochils Landscape Partnership (OLP), a £2.26 million portfolio of small projects (currently 22), which provide long-term social, economic and environmental benefits for the area. The objectives of the scheme are to conserve the area’s built, social and natural heritage with opportunities for local people to learn and participate in the work. The wind farm provides more than 50% of the OLP’s funding, with £0.5 million having already been contributed to get a number of projects up and running. This funding has also allowed the OLP to secure matched funding from other sources.
Projects include “Wee Bit Hill and Glen” (a programme to promote, celebrate and enhance access to the Ochil Hills); “By The Banks of the Devon” (a programme to the enhance, promote and conserve the River Devon); and “The Hills of Time” (a programme that promotes the cultural, social and industrial heritage of the area). Wind Prospect and EDF Energy Renewables will also be participating in the first annual Ochils Festival, by providing educational opportunities focusing on renewable energy and climate change.
- On Tuesday this week, 18 September, the latest wave of DECC’s public attitude survey was published. Perceptions of a range of renewable energy sources were mostly positive. On-shore wind had good support (66%) but had the highest level of opposition, though this was still only 12% opposing, with 4% strongly opposing. For further information see the pages on the DECC website.