Every year we see clean energy smashing records, and 2016 was no exception. It was the year both wind and solar beat coal; the year Christmas in Scotland was entirely powered by clean energy and the year 25% of our energy mix came from sea, sun and more.
Part of the reason we’ve seen solar and wind break so many records is that, despite what many think, they are dead cheap. Onshore wind (that’s wind turbines built on land, not in the sea) is the cheapest low carbon energy source out there and the government's own estimates expect it to be the cheapest energy source outright by as early as next year. Cheaper than gas, nuclear, oil and everything else. Solar isn’t far behind.
However, in their 2015 manifesto, the Conservatives promised to ‘halt the spread of subsidised onshore wind farms’. A promise they were quick to keep, pulling up the drawbridge on financial support in 2015. Now, wind is being left out in the cold.
The government’s sneaky shenanigans
The government are blocking onshore wind from competing in their energy auctions which are known as Contracts for Difference (CfDs). These auctions offer financial support for clean energy in the UK to ensure we continue to build new energy tech.
The auctions have two pots of cash - snappily known as Pot One and Pot Two. Pot Two auctions are for less mature, newer technologies like offshore wind and hydro power. Pot One is for mature, established technologies like onshore wind and solar.
Thanks to their manifesto commitment and EU regulations, the government can’t exclude particular technologies from an auction. They have to be ‘technology neutral’. In other words, they can’t just run the auction but keep onshore wind out of it. So instead, they’re not running any Pot One auctions at all.
This isn’t just messing things up for wind, it’s freezing out the UK’s second cheapest low carbon power source too: solar.
So why does that matter?
First, it's going to increase the cost of the UK’s carbon cutting. Which is odd, because the government made another manifesto promise to ‘decarbonise at lowest cost’. The current policies they have put in place make that impossible.
It means energy bills will have to rise. If we’re not investing in the cheapest energy sources, the money to make up the difference will have to come from somewhere.
Second, it will endanger the once thriving onshore wind industry - losing jobs, skill and investment. Ikea are already claiming they won’t spend their £524 million green investment pot in the UK because of the government’s policy on onshore wind.
Third, with the cheapest options blocked out, we’re at risk of missing our global climate change commitments. In 2015, countries came together to sign a record breaking climate agreement in Paris. To make it a reality, we need onshore wind and solar.
In the budget on March 8th the Chancellor has the chance to fix this. He will make a major announcement on the future of clean energy. We’re calling on the government to stop blocking onshore wind and solar. Will you join us?