Newly appointed UK Energy Minister John Hayes is calling for “fresh thinking” on community engagement with onshore wind development.
He made the statement following the government’s call for evidence yesterday, launched by Energy Secretary Ed Davey.
The government wants to gather information on the barriers to community participation with onshore wind developments, best practice in local consultations by developers, ways to encourage participation by local businesses in the supply chain, and how to reward communities.
Ideas already on the table include investment in local infrastructure and offsetting electricity bills for residents in the vicinity of new developments.
“Appropriately sited onshore wind has a role to play, but if we’re to make this work in a way that garners popular support, we’ve got to see a big improvement in how developers engage with local communities, new ways of ensuring a sense of local ownership and more obvious local economic benefits,” says Hayes.
The government is “open-minded” about how best to proceed with onshore wind development, he adds, and wants to hear workable ideas and solutions from proponents and opponents alike.
“We are sensitive to the controversy around onshore wind and we want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited near to them,” commented Davey. “[But] two-thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind.”
RenewableUK, the trade body representing the wind and marine energy industries, welcomed the call for evidence.
“Thousands of people around the UK are already seeing evidence of the economic benefits wind energy brings – wind farm owners donate at least £1000 for every megawatt they install, to be spent on community projects,” commented deputy chief executive of the organisation, Maf Smith.
In addition, the onshore wind sector already support some 8600 skilled engineering and construction jobs and contributed around £548 million to the UK economy.
High profile community renewable projects are also now attracting small-scale investors and are typically well oversubscribed.
In fact, in a recent government survey of 2100 individuals, 66% of respondents supported the development of onshore wind capacity in the UK.
While onshore wind is slightly less popular than other forms of renewable power, which are supported by some 77% of the British public, only 4% activity oppose development of renewables.
Most global consumers want more renewables, says survey (18-Sept)
UK wind power sets new record high of 4 GW (14-Sept)
UK community solar farm share offer hits £4 million target (2-Aug)
UK’s largest community-owned wind farm seeks go ahead (10-May)
Article source: http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/i/5387/