Tinkering at the margins


November 6, 2013

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Mixed fortunes for the wind industry this week in the UK as the Government unveiled the proposed ‘strike prices’ for on- and offshore wind power.

The loser is onshore wind power – a technology deemed to be more mature, and of course significantly less costly than its offshore counterpart.

The funds saved from the cut in onshore subsidies will be directly reinvested into the offshore sector, although given the higher price of offshore wind, it remains to be seen how far the sums involved will go.

The messaging from the Government has at least been consistent; Onshore wind is cheaper, therefore requiring less support, and offshore wind needs further encouragement if firms are to invest in the industry.

That, in part, is true, although it’s probably fair to say that Conservative Ministers will have been coming under pressure from their back bench MPs, many of whom are opposed to onshore wind farms in their constituencies.

For a Government that has made much of its disappointment that the number of infrastructure projects it was banking on have failed to materialise, it was a decision that left some perplexed.

Whilst Prime Minister David Cameron toured China looking to secure investment for a number of UK projects, such as High Speed 2, the decision not to enhance support for an industry that already provides employment and has a clear strategy for growth seems puzzling.

Of more concern was the announcement by a number of firms that alluded to cancelling onshore projects under the revised strike price.

Given the relative ease, low cost and expediency with which onshore wind can be deployed, tinkering at the margins to reduce its scale seems, at best, short sighted, and at worst, negligent.

Too often it seems that the industry is thwarted at the 11th hour. This week’s announcement, whilst workable, still falls short of the industry’s potential.

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