However, this controversial move is likely to damage investor confidence irreparably, not just in the wind sector but also in the broader UK energy market. Scottish Renewables has estimated Scotland could now lose out on £3 billion of investment.
It’s not just inward investment that will bear the brunt of this decision. With 5,400 people employed in Scotland’s onshore wind industry, the reductions to financial support will surely cast doubt over future job security.
The rationale for this decision simply does not add up. Westminster’s claim that the UK possesses enough subsidised projects to meet its renewable energy commitments contradicts the latest report from the European Commission, which has projected that the UK is set to fall short of its legally binding 2020 EU renewable energy targets. Early closure of the Renewables Obligation can only further hamper the UK’s efforts to meet these targets, which may result in the use of more expensive technologies and increases to consumer energy bills.
On this latter point, it’s worth remembering that onshore wind uses a free and abundantly available fuel source where the UK could not be held hostage to fortune by politically unstable nations for fuel supply, unlike, for example, major gas imports.
Cutting the subsidy flies in the face of Westminster’s commitment to support only the most cost-effective technologies and those that have public support. We know onshore wind is the most cost-effective renewables technology and, as evidenced by the UK government’s own public attitudes tracker, it also enjoys strong support.
Failure to continue supporting this valuable industry is not just short-sighted, it is ill-considered and reckless.
• Stuart Winter is associate director planning at property consultancy firm JLL