DOMESTIC energy bills are helping prop up Britain’s wind farm industry – with every job in the UK sector effectively costing £100,000 a year in subsidies – according to reports yesterday.
The figures show turbine owners received £1.2 billion in consumer subsidies last year, which supported 12,000 jobs. The subsidy is paid through a supplement on electricity bills.
Lord Teverson, who leads on energy and climate change for the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, said the subsidies were not primarily for “a job creation programme”, but rather allowed Britain to compete at the forefront of the renewable technology industry.
He said: “It [a subsidy] is in terms of getting us ahead in the world and gives us skills we can export. It is a good investment for the future. The positive is Britain wants to be at the forefront of this.”
West Country-based Lord Teverson, who lives in a region with more than 100 turbines, said an element of subsidy for renewable energy projects was “inevitable” while the technology is still in its infancy.
He added: “There are some high start-up costs and money is needed for investment, but after that the energy is free.
“I can see how the idea of a subsidy for renewables doesn’t sit well with some, but you ask most people down here [in Cornwall] about wind turbines and it is not high on their agenda of things to worry about, unlike the shortage of affordable housing.”
The figures come in the wake of tough new rules which could help locals oppose plans for onshore developments due to fears about both the physical and noise impact of developments.
Developers, too, have also received short shrift in the courts, after a landmark ruling last year where Mrs Justice Lang ruled in favour of preserving the Norfolk Broads’ landscape, rather than allow a four-turbine installation.
It is thought changes to planning guidance would threaten the future of onshore wind by giving greater weight to local opposition over energy needs.
Concerns have been raised by some in the industry that an increase in “sweetener” payments to those who host turbines may have made some developments uneconomic and scupper any benefits for them proceeding.
The government said wind subsidies did more than support jobs, citing environmental benefits as key to the payments.
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: “Subsidies for wind have multiple benefits for the UK economy, supporting jobs is only one important factor.
“Wind power adds to our energy security as part of a diverse energy mix. In 2012, over 5 per cent of all electricity generated came from wind power. As the cost of technologies come down, so will subsidies. Support for onshore wind was reduced by 10 per cent this year.”