Parliament Square carpeted in pinwheels to show public support for clean energy

Parliament Square carpeted in pinwheels to show public support for clean energy

  • 1000 pinwheels were planted in Parliament Square at dawn this morning, highlighting public support for onshore wind power.

  • As scientists declare 2016 the hottest year on record, campaigners are calling for government funds to be urgently redirected away from fossil fuels and to the development of clean energy.

1000 pinwheels were planted in Parliament Square at dawn this morning to highlight public support for wind power in the run-up to next week’s Autumn Statement.

Campaigners from climate change charity 10:10 then took bouquets of pinwheels to the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy along with a petition signed by 18,000 wind power supporters.

Before next week’s Autumn Statement, and with international climate talks currently happening in Marrakesh, the petition urges the government to ensure onshore wind power is able to compete with other forms of electricity generation, and to reevaluate subsidies for fossil fuel power stations. Campaigners point to latest World Meteorological Organisation figures showing 2016 will be the hottest year on record, and call for government funds to be urgently redirected to support the development of clean energy.

In 2015 the government announced the end of financial support mechanisms for new onshore wind power, despite it being as cheap as new gas-fired power stations to build, endangering their manifesto commitment to ensuring the lowest cost transition to a low carbon economy.

Yet since 2014 ‘Capacity Market’ auctions - designed to ensure a secure electricity supply - have handed £2.8 billion of public money to various electricity generators. £1.8bn of that went to fossil fuel power stations, with over £500m allocated to the dirtiest generators, burning coal and diesel. According to climate charity 10:10 the same level of support for onshore wind power would enable 7GW of capacity to be built - enough to meet 6% of the UK’s annual electricity demand. According to campaigners, upwards of £1 billion more will be contracted to dirty and inefficient forms of electricity generation in auctions coming up in December and January.

Since 2010 deployment of renewables in the UK has outstripped all but the most bullish expectations, resulting in a quarter of UK electricity demand being met from renewables in 2015. Further, latest government figures predict onshore wind will be cheaper than new gas power by 2020 at the latest, with significant scope for costs to fall below gas before then. By 2025, it is expected that onshore wind will be by far the cheapest new power capacity option.

Onshore wind power is also very popular in the UK. Latest government research shows public support for onshore wind at 71%. A ComRes poll conducted for climate charity 10:10 last month generated similar results, and also found two thirds of people living in rural areas (where onshore wind turbines tend to be built) say they support onshore wind farms (65%), challenging the accepted idea that it’s only city dwellers who prefer the technology. Although support for onshore wind was lower here than in urban areas (75%), it is still high, and the difference is similar to that found when split by age (77% of 18-24s support onshore wind compared to 66% of over 65s). In contrast, the government’s research shows support for fracking at only 16%.

Cecily Spelling, wind campaigner at climate change charity 10:10, said:

“Onshore wind is great. It’s cheap and can help control bills. It’s climate friendly. It’s popular. It’s a plentiful resource here in the UK. And yet current government policy is hanging it out to dry. They claim they want the cheapest decarbonisation of the UK economy, yet lock out the cheapest forms of low carbon energy - onshore wind and commercial scale solar.

It looks like we’ll be giving more than a billion pounds more public money to dirty fossil fuel power stations this winter , whilst failing to invest adequately in clean energy or support innovation in electricity storage and ‘smart grid’ technologies. It’s a dangerous use of public money and risks tying us to dirty fossil fuels for way longer than we need.”

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Hi-res photos (credit - Andrew Aitchison):

Notes to editors: