Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested that he may cut subsidies for green energy sources such as solar panels and windfarms, after acknowledging that consumers ultimately compensate for the discounts through increases to their energy bills.
Despite the Department of Energy and Climate Change regularly blaming rising energy bills on the soaring cost of gas, Mr Cameron admitted that the green subsidies offered to various organisations means that consumers ultimately pay more to make up for it.
In recent times, the government has taken action to curb the spread of windfarms across the country, spurred by around 100 Tory backbenchers who had complained about windfarms being built in their constituency.
Few were as opposed as the former energy minister John Hayes, who described them as a blight on the landscape, but it was nevertheless enough for the coalition to order modest cuts to subsidies for onshore wind farms and solar panels last year, while also issuing planning guidance earlier this month that will make it more difficult for developers to construct new turbines.
These moves have drawn criticism from environmentalists who point to Mr Cameron’s vow to be the greenest government ever when he was running for election, but the prime minister said that action needs to be taken to ensure that the current administration’s policy remains on track.
He even went as far as to say that the coalition’s green policy lacked “sanity” until John Hayes and new energy minister Michael Fallon took action to curb the spread of windfarms.
Now, it seems the prime minister is more willing to acknowledge the double-edge sword that critics say the creation of new windfarms creates – the impact on the landscape, and the effect on consumers’ energy bills.
At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Sheryll Murray, MP for South East Cornwall, passed on constituency concerns over the impact that renewable energy sources are having on the landscape.
She asked: “Will the prime minister join me in praising the hard work of Mr Hayes and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for ensuring that planning decisions taken at local level concerning wind turbines remain local?”
In response, Mr Cameron acknowledged the work done by the current and former energy ministers, much of which is ongoing.
“I absolutely join her in praising the excellent work done by Mr Hayes, which has been carried on by Michael Fallon. They have both done a very good job at bringing some sanity to the situation on onshore wind,” he said.
Mrs Murray went on to claim that many of her constituents had become “increasingly concerned” about the spread of solar fields, and asked whether decisions on these should be subject to the same planning rules as wind turbines.
“On solar panels, the government of course substantially reduced the feed-in tariffs to ensure that this industry was not over-subsidised, because all subsidies end up on consumers’ bills and we should think very carefully about that,” Mr Cameron said.
The prime minister’s stance now appears to be more in line with that of chancellor George Osborne, who has previously called for green subsidies to be cut, arguing that an overabundance of environmental goals can cause businesses to fail and jobs to be lost, ultimately harming the UK economy.