There will be no change on energy policy despite windfarm split, says David Cameron


David Cameron insisted today that the Government's energy policy has not changed, after a Tory minister attacked the way wind farms were being “peppered” across the countryside.

But the Prime Minister left the door open for a halt to development once current planned projects are completed.

Coalition tensions over energy policy erupted after Energy Minister John Hayes said "enough is enough" and vowed to "protect our green and pleasant land".

He was slapped down today by Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey, who said there has been "no change" to Government policy.

Mr Cameron told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions: "There has been no change towards renewable energy.

"Let me explain exactly - we have got a big pipeline of onshore and offshore wind projects that are coming through.

"We are committed to those, but frankly all parties are going to have to have a debate in this House and outside this House about what happens once those targets are met."

Mr Hayes, whose comments will delight many Tory backbenchers opposed to onshore wind farms, was appointed by Mr Cameron as a Tory deputy to Mr Davey in last month's reshuffle.

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.

He insisted that 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 with the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

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."

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

Experts waded into the row over onshore wind, pointing out that it is the cheapest low-carbon energy source and warning that turning away from the technology is likely to push up energy bills.

Professor Michael Grubb, chair of energy and climate policy at Cambridge University, labelled Mr Hayes' invention “nonsensical”.

“In the UK we have a solid base of domestic renewable resources and a solid framework of policies on energy efficiency.

”Yet this week's announcements suggest we have a vocal faction in the Government that is determined to undo all this by attacking renewable energy and undermining investor confidence.

“Onshore wind turbines must be carefully and properly sited. But this intervention is nonsensical.

”At a time of wrenching fuel bills, serious questions need to be asked about why Junior Minister John Hayes is unilaterally advocating a policy to try and block one of our cheapest renewable energy resources and thus drive up everyone's energy bills.“

Professor Philip Heptonstall, of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and Imperial College London, said: ”The evidence shows that onshore wind in the UK is amongst the lowest cost per unit of electricity produced from the available suite of low-carbon power generation options.

“It follows that preventing the construction of appropriately sited onshore wind farms will make consumers' bills higher than they would otherwise be.”