While a record 2.6GW of onshore wind generation was installed across the UK in 2017, twice the previous record of 1.3GW in 2013, the industry has expressed fears that government policy is limiting the sector’s future.
Emma Pinchbeck, the executive director of trade body Renewable UK, said:
“Investment made since 2015 has delivered record new capacity and made onshore wind the cheapest form of power. But the government’s current policy means that we are missing out on future onshore wind development, and consumers are missing out on a return on their investment through lower electricity prices.”
Following lobbying from Tory MPs worried about windfarms blighting the English shires, David Cameron made a key 2015 election campaign pledge to ban subsidies for onshore wind power. While some ministers have since indicated a possibility of relaxing the ban, there has yet to be any formal change in policy.
According to many experts, customers could face higher energy bills due to missing out on a cheap but clean source of power. Thanks to advances in technology and the use of advanced lubrication, such as those from Mobil distributors, onshore wind projects could be effectively subsidy-free for bill payers. In the absence of guaranteed energy pricing, however, developers are reluctant to expose themselves to varying wholesale prices.
The UK now has 12.06GW of onshore wind power installed, with a fifth of that coming online in 2017 alone. While offshore wind projects can still bid for subsidies, their total capacity remains less than half of their onshore counterparts.