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Wind farm 'clean energy' subsidy to end one year early

Credit: PA

The Conservative government is stopping new subsidies for onshore wind farms by closing the current payment scheme a year earlier, it has announced.

The decision will fulfill a Tory election promise on ending new public subsidies for onshore wind farms and changing the law so local people have the final say on them.

They claim claim the onshore turbines "often fail to win public support and are unable by themselves to provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires".

Under the plans, the "renewables obligation" scheme, through which subsidies are paid to renewable schemes, will be closed to onshore wind farms from April 1, 2016.

There will be a grace period offered to projects that already have planning consent, a grid connection offer and acceptance and evidence that the scheme has the right to use the land.

This could allow up to 5.2 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity to go ahead - potentially leading to hundreds more wind turbines going up in the countryside across the UK.

Credit: PA

However industry and environmental campaigners have slammed the decision to curb the cheapest way of producing clean energy and have warned that the move could pave the way for more harmful methods of energy production like fracking.

The renewables obligation has already been closed to large scale solar farms, amid Tory concerns that the technology was a blight on the landscape, and is due to close to all new renewables schemes in 2017.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd said there were enough subsidised onshore wind schemes to meet renewable energy commitments.

But a European Commission progress report this week suggested the UK was one of several member states set to significantly miss its renewables targets for 2020 and would "need to assess whether their policies and tools are sufficient and effective in meeting their renewable energy objectives"

Ms Rudd said: "We have a long-term plan to keep the lights on and our homes warm, power the economy with cleaner energy, and keep bills as low as possible for hard-working families.

"As part of our plan, we are committed to cutting our carbon emissions by fostering enterprise, competition, opportunity and growth.

"We want to help technologies stand on their own two feet, not encourage a reliance of public subsidies.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "This decision risks undermining the development of the cheapest form of renewables in the country, and is bad news for Scotland's clean energy ambitions.

"Cutting support early for the lowest cost renewable technology is a backward step that will either see bills rise or climate targets missed."