18 July, 2023
The Yorkshire Post, by Mason Boycott-Owen
Sam Richards, the CEO of Britain Remade, last night said that Conservative MPs have the power to stop the Government kicking proposals “into the long grass”.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Richards, who heads up the green energy campaign group, said that delaying the onshore wind rollout would be a risk economically and politically for the Prime Minister.
“Unfortunately, the sector is still in limbo,” he said.
“Despite some positive noises from government ministers, fundamentally, there haven't been the necessary changes in the planning rules to unlock onshore wind in England.
“It is deeply frustrating, and will be deeply frustrating for families across the country when they're starting to pay their bills, that the government is currently blocking the building of the cheapest source of electricity.”
Mr Richards, who was among those vying for the Tory nomination for Selby before the announcement of the by-election, said Rishi Sunak may not be able to avoid the large number of Tory MPs willing to force a commitment through Parliament, by threatening to derail flagship legislation.
Late last year more than 30 Conservative MPs forced the Government to look at relaxing the rules on onshore wind turbines following an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill led by Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary.
The Government consultation on changing planning rules closed over four months ago, with an announcement not expected until after the summer recess.
Mr Richards told The Yorkshire Post that Tory MPs, such as Liz Truss and Alok Sharma would be able to force through changes when Government legislation comes back before Parliament.
“There will be other opportunities, not least with the energy bill for those large numbers of conservative backbench MPs who are supportive of onshore wind to bring further amendments,” he said.
“They may want to kick into long grass, but I don't know that they will be able to.”
“I think there's a risk across clean energy, that the government is failing to feed the economic opportunity, of lots of cheap power, but it's also ceding popular political ground when we know, in poll after poll, onshore wind is popular right across the country, in every constituency, amongst every demographic of voters.
“So it is risky and reckless economically, but it is equally risky politically.
“It's a shame that they’re deprioritising the push to clean energy. With the five priorities it’s indisputable that it’s not in there.
It comes following analysis that suggested that Labour would need to build up to 3,000 new onshore wind turbines in its first term in office in order to hit its net zero targets.
A Government spokesperson said: “We are backing both onshore and offshore wind as a key part of the UK’s renewables mix, installing an additional 339MW of additional onshore wind capacity in 2022 alone.
“We have consulted on changes to planning policy in England so councils can better respond to the views of their communities when they wish to host onshore wind infrastructure. These decisions should be made by local representatives who know their areas best.
“Since 2010, we’ve increased the amount of renewable energy connected to the grid by 500 per cent – the second highest amount in Europe. This has meant installing 3790 MW of additional capacity across all renewables in 2022 alone, which is enough to power 3.8 million homes”.