The Energy Secretary is in favour of wind farms. The Energy Minister is against them. So who will win the fuel fight?

 

Whitehall Editor

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The Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey was today forced to publically rebuke his Conservative deputy for claiming that the Government would veto the development of more on-shore windfarms.

In a sign of the growing Coalition tensions over investment in renewables Energy Minister John Hayes appeared to announce there would be no further expansion of onshore wind developments in a newspaper interview saying “enough is enough”.

But this morning he was slapped down by Mr Davey, who said there had been “no change” to Government policy.

“Onshore wind is one of the cheapest renewables, which is why we've been able to cut the subsidy. It has an important role to play in our energy future,” Mr Davey said.

Mr Hayes has long been known to be an opponent of further onshore wind farms and his appointment to the energy brief in last month’s reshuffle was seen as an attempt by David Cameron to appease Tory backbenchers who are also opposed to increasing development.

Mr Davey was reportedly so concerned about his views on the issue that he acted to limit his responsibilities.

In comments reported today, Mr Hayes said wind farms could no longer be “imposed on communities”.

“I can't single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land,” he said.

“We have issued a call for evidence on wind. That is about cost but also about community buy-in.

“We need to understand communities' genuine desires. We will form our policy in the future on the basis of that, not on a bourgeois left article of faith based on some academic perspective."

He insisted only a minority of proposed wind turbines were needed to meet green targets set by the Government.

"If you look at what has been built, what has consent and what is in the planning system, much of it will not get through and will be rejected. Even if a minority of what's in the system is built, we are going to reach our 2020 target. I'm saying enough is enough."

The minister said new research on wind turbines would make a far wider assessment of their impact on the rural landscape and property prices.

“I have asked the planning minister to look again at the relationship between these turbines and the landscape,” he said.

"It seems extraordinary to have allowed them to be peppered around the country without due regard for the interests of the local community or their wishes."

It is understood that the remarks were contained in a draft of a speech Mr Hayes had intended to give last night.

After Mr Davey's office saw the draft, however, Mr Hayes was told it was not acceptable and he should not give it. The content then appears to have ended up in the Daily Mail.

Mr Hayes was understood to returning this morning from Scotland to hold discussions with Mr Davey in an attempt to limit the fall-out from the row.

In a statement issued today, Mr Davey said: “There has been no change to Government policy on renewable energy, as collectively agreed by the Coalition Cabinet.

“We set out in the Renewable Energy Roadmap in July 2011 how we expect to reach our target of getting 30% of all UK electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

“We've put in place support to bring on growth in new industries to deploy the technologies needed to diversify our energy mix in the most cost-effective way.

“There are no targets - or caps - for individual renewable technologies such as onshore wind. Nor are there reviews being done of onshore wind on the basis of landscape or property values.

“What we're currently consulting on are ways of making sure local communities feel the benefit of hosting wind farms, and whether our understanding of future costs is accurate.”

Downing Street tried to play down the row but pointedly failed to say that Mr Hayes was speaking for the Government.

“We have set out a clear policy which is that we want an energy mix. He is a minister at DECC. That is the capacity in which he speaks about energy policy.”

A source close to Mr Davey said: “We are going to continue to hold Conservative feet to the fire.”

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