Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables

Kevin Meagher reveals the damage being caused to UK industry by the Conservative NIMBYs who fight investment at every opportunity


Ministers risk jeopardising investment – and thousands of jobs – in the burgeoning wind energy sector because they are sending out weak signals of support to potential investors, the Guardian reports this morning.

The paper claims a host of private sector leaders are expressing concern over the government’s lukewarm support for wind power, despite the sector generating large numbers of highly-skilled jobs and Britain’s natural abundance of the resource.

Magued Eldaief, managing director of General Electric (GE) Energy, told the paper his company was looking to invest £100 million in wind power manufacturing but the investment was:

“On hold until we have certainty and clarity regarding the policy environment that we are in”.

He added:

“One of the most important things for us is political certainty, so we can justify the business and investment case for a facility in the UK. But we think there are some [political] headwinds which do not help, especially in terms of the subsidies discussion.”

Vestas – the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer – is planning to build a factory in Kent employing 2000 people. Its chief executive, Ditlev Engel, warned the company would have to rethink its investment strategy if the political wind – so to speak – changed direction:

“If things should change, my customers will not be able to sign orders – and that is a prerequisite. We will only go ahead if we have firm, unconditional orders – we will only get orders from our customers if they are sure that the development [of windfarms] can go ahead.

The most important issue that our customers have is a long-term policy framework – that is required to put in these investments, which are huge … [But] we have not had reassurance from the government.”

Matthew Chinn, managing director of Siemens Energy for the UK and north-west Europe said a perceived lack of government support for wind power was a “very significant” disincentive for the company to press ahead with its plans. The company is planning a £210 million factory in Hull that would employ 700 people, and it already has £500 million invested in other wind power projects.

Meanwhile Matthew Clayton, a fund manager at Triodos Investment Management, is blunter still:

“It worries me from the level of understanding of MPs who are running the country. The arguments about costs never seem to factor in an expected rising price of oil and gas and the fact that wind, once installed, provides almost free electricity.”

I don’t really think this [opposition] is about economics. It is largely about the aesthetics of wind and its impact on the countryside. We need to have a more honest debate about this.”

In a perfect illustration of the NIMBYism that dictates too much of the debate about wind energy, Tory MP Chris Pincher  wrote on ConservativeHome earlier this month:

“Ask an estate agent and they will tell you that a wind turbine application to the local planning committee can easily affect the value of homes in the immediate vicinity.”

So much, then, for considerations about the UK’s long-term energy security.

In addition, a recent letter to David Cameron signed by 101 Conservative MPs claimed it was “unwise” to support “inefficient and intermittent” onshore wind power and the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should be beefed up to make it easier to oppose wind farm applications.

Yet our burgeoning wind power industry already employs 10,000 people at every level from apprentices to experienced engineers. As Jennifer Webber from RenewableUK puts it:

The number of jobs is expected to rise to 88,300 by 2021, including the many companies, large and small, involved in the supply chain.

As British politics battles over which party is the most pro and anti-business, the unmistakable message coming from corporate leaders in one of our major potential growth sectors is that the Conservatives are bad for (green) business.

See also:

Shale gas fantasists and wind sceptics need to get realGuy Shrubsole, February 14th 2012

Cable calls for return of industrial policyWill Straw, February 13th 2012

Climate change sceptics and rural romantics – the Tories are a shambles on renewable energyKevin Meagher, February 7th 2012

KPMG abandons anti-wind pro-gas energy reportAlex Hern, February 7th 2012

Climate sceptic Tory MEPs will send us sleepwalking towards disasterMartyn Williams, July 5th 2011

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23 Responses to “Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables”

  1. Em

    Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables, writes @kevinpmeagher:

  2. UAL Amnesty Group

    #UK : Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables

  3. SERA

    Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables, writes @kevinpmeagher:

  4. Kevin Meagher

    Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables, writes @kevinpmeagher:

  5. Me

    These monstrosities do nothing for energy security. If I need 100 conventional power stations on Monday, then on Tuesday you build 10000 bird mincing turbines, on Wednesday and every day after you still need every one of the 100 conventional turbines. The only thing you achieve is the enrichment of the landed gentry like Cameron’s father-in-law and the impoverishment of ordinary people who see their bills rise to pay for these white elephants.

    We have millions under and un-employed. We have hundreds of years of coal beneath our feet. We spend billions on turbines that actually destroy our environment in a very concrete and visible way. We will never be able to produce turbines more cheaply than China and similar economies which are building huge numbers of nuclear and coal power stations.

    Wind farms stand as testimonies to our inevitable doom as jobless people look on wondering why there aren’t so many birds around as there used to be.

  6. Watching You

    Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables, writes @kevinpmeagher:

  7. Anonymous

    Axe the subsidy.

    It’s the same as the banks. A few rich people extracting lots of taxpayer’s cash with threats.

    If I demand 1 million and you pay it, who is the idiot.

    Me for asking or you for handing over the money.

  8. nigel thompson

    "@leftfootfwd: Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables, writes @kevinpmeagher:" sure is.

  9. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables

  10. Michael

    Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables –

  11. SimonB

    I see dumb and dumberer are duty trolls today.

  12. justpassingthrough

    Why should people of any party support “the environment” if their own back yard is excluded from it?

  13. Peter M P Lilley

    Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in …: As British politics battles over which party is the…

  14. Ben C

    All around the world, conservative governments are attacking renewable energy. Mostly, they are removing what little subsidies it has. Here in Australia, conservative state governments are also placing severe restrictions on the development of wind farms.

    The NIMBY alliances provide a convenient, astroturfed excuse but I think protecting the existing power industry (fossil or nuclear) is probably as big a consideration.

    Renewables have grown enormously and will survive these attacks in the long run, but we have a very short timeframe to make the switch to clean energy or we will lock in dangerous climate change. We can’t afford the delays, the world’s progressives and lefties have to get behind renewable energy.

    Good on you for running with the topic on your blog!

  15. Primly Stable

    I really don’t like the way LFF correspondents casually uses the term “NIMBY” to described anyone who is opposed to anything said correspondent supports. HS2 gets the same treatment, yet I imagine you didn’t think the people of Sipson were NIMBYs when they opposed the third runway at Heathrow. It’s a childish insult that stinks of sixth-form ‘debates’ rather than the evidence-based political blogging that LFF promises.

  16. Kevin

    Take the general point – but I’m afraid Conservative opposition to wind power is principally focused on parochial concerns – as it is with HS2 as well. We can’t base our energy and transport policies on the aesthetic conservatism of a few noisy – and usually well-heeled – protesters defending their own vested interests.

  17. Delroy Booth

    Another Tory NIMBY, hurting the British economy: #PMQs

  18. Miles Douglas

    Another Tory NIMBY, hurting the British economy: #PMQs

  19. Tristan Osborne

    RT @leftfootfwd: Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables

  20. Martin Steel

    Another Tory NIMBY, hurting the British economy: #PMQs

  21. Kevin Meagher

    This week I have mostly been writing about the workshy
    And wind:

  22. We need more community and co-operative ownership of energy | Left Foot Forward

    […] See also: • Conservative NIMBYism is scaring away the investment in renewables 27 Feb […]

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