'Enough is enough': wind farm builder threatens to quit UK

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One of the UK's largest wind farm developers has threatened to pull out of the country as a storm blows up over the Government's plans for renewable energy.

A logjam in the planning process for developers means that many wind farms will not be operational for a decade. Unless financing rules are changed, Wind Energy is warning that many will never even get built, which could force the Government to miss its targets on renewable energy.

The timing of the protest is embarrassing for the Government, which next month will close consultation on its energy review on nuclear power. Its previous review - only three years ago - was supposed to back renewable energy such as wind power.

Wind Energy wants to build 800MW of onshore wind farms in Scotland, enough to power a city the size of Edinburgh.

National Grid has told the company, and developers of around 100 other wind farms in Scotland, totalling around 6,000MW, that they will not be connected to the grid before 2016.

But despite the huge timelag, developers still have to table deposits upfront to cover the cost of the upgrades to the grid - even if planning permission for their site is not granted and the wind farm does not go ahead.

Under the planning regime, developers have to apply for connection to the grid before they can gain planning permission. Around half the planning applications for onshore wind farms in the UK fail.

Even if a developer secures planning approval and does not lose its deposit for connection, it is not home and dry. Should a nearby wind farm plan fall through, the other developers sharing the planned upgrade to the grid have to shoulder the failed developer's liabilities.

Mike Davies, managing director of Wind Energy, said developers should be able to delay payment until a decision on planning permission is made.

He added that developers had earned a temporary reprieve, until September, before they have to start paying millions of pounds in connection fees to National Grid.

"We are relying on the Government to sort this out in the next six months. Unless things change, we would have to say 'enough is enough - we are pulling out'. We will move to other countries where these projects are easier to develop instead. Trying to get through the regulatory and planning system in the UK is like running in treacle. It needs some movement from the top urgently."

The Government has set a target to generate a 10th of the UK's electricity, or around 7,000MW, from renewable sources by 2010 rising to a fifth by 2020.

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