By Ann Link of TTL
Two Lewes constituents went to Parliament to lobby Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, about allowing more wind turbines on land. We are asking her to publicise her support locally and to work in Parliament to remove barriers to onshore wind. It is encouraging to discover that she has already signed a cross party letter to the government asking for a net-zero emissions target for the UK before 2050.
10:10 organised a lobby about onshore wind at the Houses of Parliament on January 30th with the Conservative Environment Group (CEN). It was in a large room in Portcullis House, a new Parliamentary annexe. There was a lot of security, bag and person scans etc. It was like a committee room but with few places to sit. There were stalls from 10:10, the CEN and notably, Vattenfall, which has been installing windfarms in the UK. Dozens of constituents arrived and we looked for our MPs. 33 MPs turned up, a very good attendance.
The event gave the impression of a maturing campaign with vested interests nicely lining up for wind. This is because onshore wind is now cheaper than other forms of energy, without subsidy, and is surprisingly popular with the general public.
Yet the government has put barriers stronger than for other kinds of energy and of course has actively encouraged fracking. It seems that a group of around 100 Tory MPs a few years ago mounted a campaign because they were afraid of losing their seats; and George Osborne was very deliberately aligning with the fossil fuel companies. The 2017 Conservative manifesto said that “more large-scale onshore wind is not right for England”.
The government has introduced planning obstacles in England so that it is impossible for schemes to work out what to do to comply with them. It does not allow wind companies to bid to supply onshore wind power to the National Grid, even though they could supply at the cheapest price, below new gas, nuclear and offshore wind. This has resulted in a 94% drop in applications for new projects, shutting down the industry in England.
Yet most people, especially here in southern England, support wind turbines on land. The support is at 76%, compared with 38% for nuclear and 17% for shale gas. Nearly 60% of Conservative voters support onshore wind. 70% of people in the south would be prepared to live within five miles of turbines.
Now support is increasing among MPs, as onshore wind no longer requires subsidies and makes economic sense in the narrowest sense as well as being a low-carbon source helping to avoid the costly worst of climate change.
In this year of acute realisation of climate change risks, it is time to mobilise support for onshore wind and remove all the barriers. Ovesco has researched local wind potential: Shoreham has turbines, so why not Newhaven? There are farmers who want turbines on their land, and when did we last hear any complaint about the Shepham windfarm near Polegate?
Maria Caulfield did attend, and seemed persuaded. She happily took a copy of the 10:10 press release, and got her photo taken with me and Ralph Wood from Seaford. This item appeared on her website a week later. She has also supported Community Energy and more charging points for electric cars.
I have asked Maria Caulfield to make her support stronger and more public, and to sign a letter to the Prime MInister asking for removal of the barriers to onshore wind.