David Cameron has publicly backed the creation of new UK windfarms, claiming that they will be essential as the country’s reliance on renewable forms of energy and technology increases.
Speaking in the United Arab Emirates after meeting with potential investors in the UK’s renewable energy sector, the prime minster attempted to justify the government’s stance.
Lack of agreement
It follows a tumultuous couple of weeks in which the government’s policy on renewable energy has become so clouded that even members of the cabinet are ensure of the coalition’s stance.
The most outspoken critic was the Tory energy minister, John Hayes, who claimed that “enough was enough” as far as the creation of new windfarms was concerned last week.
Describing them as “peppering” the natural landscape, Mr Hayes claimed that the government could comfortably meet its renewable targets by 2020 without approving any more windfarm developments.
His words caused consternation among the cabinet and it was feared they could have a detrimental effect on potential future investment in UK renewables, which prompted energy secretary Ed Davey to publicly dampen any speculation that the government had altered its stance on renewable energy.
Now it seems that Mr Cameron has taken steps to support the Lib Dem energy secretary by justifying the policy, despite it being highly unpopular among some Tory backbenchers.
According to the prime minister, windfarms can provide the UK with the greater capacity it needs to help foster the growth of new, greener technology.
This includes electric vehicles, which will increasingly replace petrol powered ones in the years ahead as the dependence on fossil fuels eases.
“All countries have to understand that, as we move to electric vehicles from petrol vehicles, we are going to see a big increase in electricity demand,” he explained.
“So, if we want to meet targets for reducing carbon emissions and recognise that electricity demand grows we must try to meet more of that demand from nuclear or renewable sources or, where necessary, gas.”
In 2011, the coalition rolled out a nationwide plug-in car grant in an attempt to boost sales of electric vehicles, as they generally cost 30% more than cars powered by traditional combustion engines.
So far it has proven popular but greater support is still needed – and windfarms can help to provide this by guaranteeing an energy-efficient and cost-effective means of running the vehicles.
Mr Cameron is in the UAE to meet with representatives from its multi-billion dollar sovereign wealth fund, which has already provided significant funding for a £1.7billion offshore windfarm in the UK.
The farm, which has 151 turbines, began generating last week and it is hoped by the government that people will see it as confirmation of the UK’s commitment to sources of renewable energy
Mr Cameron told students at Zayad University: “We have the largest amount of renewable energy in Europe in terms of tidal power and offshore wind power, and are enhancing that with a system of subsidies which will build offshore wind and wave energy projects.
“Our vision is one where there is a balanced energy policy – some nuclear, some renewables, and then also gas.”
This latest endorsement of UK renewable energy is evidence that the government is serious about the sector, but until the coalition can put on a united front, concerns will continue to be raised by industry and the public alike.