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”.
“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.
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• Shale gas fantasists and wind sceptics need to get real – Guy Shrubsole, February 14th 2012
• Cable calls for return of industrial policy – Will Straw, February 13th 2012
• Climate change sceptics and rural romantics – the Tories are a shambles on renewable energy – Kevin Meagher, February 7th 2012
• KPMG abandons anti-wind pro-gas energy report – Alex Hern, February 7th 2012
• Climate sceptic Tory MEPs will send us sleepwalking towards disaster – Martyn Williams, July 5th 2011