Is the Government at last seeing sense on wind farms?
John Hayes (Photo credit: Apprenticeships)
Too little too late, is the verdict of the brilliant Allister Heath on the Tories' near-non-existent recovery strategy. I'm 90 per cent with him. Like Allister, I believe that the Tory high command simply doesn't understand what radical action needs to be taken if there is to be any kind of meaningful economic recovery. (I loved the must-listen Jamie Whyte documentary on BBC Radio 4's Analysis programme the other night which showed that even the supposedly red-meat, new breed of Tory such as Matthew Hancock and Andrea Leadsom doesn't believe in the free market)
We are still on the edge of a cliff and my friends at Bogpaper are right: money printing and borrowing still more money to splurge on pointless, wasteful projects like HS2 are not the answer. This is going to get a lot nastier before it gets better. That's why I remain of the view that if you want to protect yourself against the horrors to come you need to buy gold bullion.
However – and it is one big HOWEVER – there's one area where I think the government is starting to get it right – and that is on energy policy. Yesterday saw two hugely encouraging speeches from two of the best ministerial appointees in the last Coalition reshuffle: Owen "Minister of Sound" Paterson, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. And John Hayes, the new Minister of State for Energy (at the Department of Energy and Climate Change).
Owen Paterson, who took on the role last month, said wind developers should “stand on their own two feet” instead of asking for money from the state.
He said green technologies such as wind farms might actually have a worse impact than climate change, because they are causing “public insurrection”.
“There are significant impacts on the rural economy and the rural environment, all of which probably weren’t intended when these things were thought up,” he told an event at the Conservative Party conference. “It is not very green to be blighting the economy in one area.”
Mr Paterson said he would write to the Department of Energy with his view on ending green subsidies as part of a Government review of support for renewable energy.
“If you start having subsidies you end up with a Soviet-style system, where politicians make decisions that might actually be better made by the market,” he added.
And here, less widely publicised but in some ways even more important for this man is in charge of implementing energy policy, John Hayes: (H/T – and many thanks – to Politics Home)
“So long as I am the Energy minister, the high-flown theories of cognitive bourgeoisie left academics will not over-ride the interests of ordinary people who need fuel for heat, light, and transport – energy policies, you might say, for the many not the few…
“To ensure we meet our energy needs and meet climate change objectives, we must invest in a diverse range of sources, and all investment must be optimum. It must represent the best value for taxpayer, consumers, and for the future generations that will benefit from it…
“What’s good for the environment must be good for the consumer too. And we can rise to this challenge, but only by allowing the market to play a primary role in determining the most productive means of investment. It’s the job of the Government to provide the framework within which these decisions are made, but if we think the state knows best, that it can make the kind of complex decisions that only the market can determine, then we will fail.
“This confusion between micromanagement and market responsiveness has bedevilled policy for years. Our energy sources must be clean and sustainable of course, but the bottom line, the actual costs both now and in the future are what really counts…
“There will certainly be a role for renewables in this mix, which is why I’ve already lifted red tape for converting coal-fired power stations to biomass…
“It is not just about aesthetics, though aesthetics of course will colour all I do. It’s about productivity. For example industrial wind turbines, to do their bit, must be in the right places doing the right job. And we might consider reconnecting production to consumption by putting its means closer to where demand is greatest.
“We’ve got to see big improvements in how developers engage with local communities – there must be new ways of ensuring a sense of local ownership and more obvious local economic benefits. In the end, what communities themselves want should drive deployment. That’s why, as I said a moment ago, I’ve called for evidence on all future on-shore wind developments and I look forward to Defra’s contribution, Owen, to that call for evidence.
“We will examine its costs and measure its benefits.”
And here's what Hayes said in a Q & A
“It’s vitally important that communities feel a sense of ownership of development, they have a key say in where wind farms are placed, and that they get tangible real benefits. And I don’t think that’s always been the case. I think it’s important that empower communities to have a much greater say in these things. That call for evidence also looks at the cost of on-shore wind.
“You’d expect any maturing technology to have declining costs, so I’d want to look at that as well. And you can be absolutely sure that while I’m the Energy minister, communities will be put first in terms of the siting of all energy developments – I think most good energy companies, by the way, take that as read. And there is good practice out there, we need to build on that.”
This is all stirring, inspirational stuff and will come as a breath of fresh air to all those rural communities around Britain whose lives have been hideously blighted by wind farms and the threat of wind farms. For the last decade or more, rural Britain has not merely ignored by Westminster but defecated upon from a great height. I simply cannot exaggerate the despair, the heartbreak, the fury, the bewilderment and the misery which government renewables policy is spreading across the countryside. And if those two speeches mark a turning point, then we have great cause for celebration.