10% by 2010 renewables target only reachable if two-thirds cleared

The UK would hit or exceed its renewable energy target if it could break the planning logjam, according to a wind expert.

Providing evidence to a public committee on the Energy Bill in Portcullis House, yesterday, Maria McCaffery, chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) said: “If two thirds of [wind farms in planning] could be consented to in the short term, we would comfortably achieve the 2010 target of 10 per cent. of electricity from totally renewable sources.”

However, she added, more than 200 schemes were “stuck in the planning system for whatever reason,” many having been there for 24 months and several for over four years. The schemes make up more than 5.5% of the UK’s total electricity generating capacity, or 7,500MW. The UK currently has an elecriticity generating capacity of 85,000MW.

Charles Anglin, a spokesman for the BWEA, said: “Most of the hold up come from lots of NIMBY opposition. Local politicians are paralysed by fear." Moreover, he added, the Ministry of Defence frequently passes a scheme only to block it at a later date. He said the problem came down to the MoD assigning insufficient staff to the task.

“The people who support wind farms are, on the whole, a silent majority. We encourage them to make their voices heard.”

The Government has set a limit of 16 weeks for local authorities to decide planning applications which have an environmental impact and 70% of decisions are made within that time period. But for wind farms, that figure is 5%, according to the BWEA.

“It’s a unique problem with wind farms,” said Anglin, adding that most wind farms take 10 years from site scoping to construction.

Last year, the Government gave the thumbs up the London Array, 300 turbines in the Thames Estuary which, when completed, is expected to contribute 1% of the UK’s electricity needs.

At present, three per cent of the country’s electricity comes from renewable energy most of which comes from hydropower.

Hansard from HoC Energy Bill Committee