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Johnson and Truss join in on the insurgent planning of onshore wind

Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are set to join a growing rebellion against the government’s decision to maintain a de facto ban on onshore wind farms, which experts accuse of driving up energy costs and undermining Britain’s energy security.

In their first major parliamentary intervention since being ousted from Number 10, the two former prime ministers said they would back an amendment by former Communities Secretary Simon Clarke that would allow offshore wind development in the UK to resume.

A proposed amendment to the Upgrading and Regeneration Bill would give the government six months to amend the National Planning Policy to allow both new onshore wind farms and the repowering of existing older wind farms if the projects have public support.

Talking yes Times, Clark said the amendment has received support across the party. “People across the Conservative Party support this amendment because it is pro-growth and pro-environment – at a time when we should be standing up for both,” he said.

A caucus of moderate One Nation Tory MPs is expected to back the amendment, and the public support of Truss and Johnson means it could also gain support from some right-wing members of the party.

The news comes days after Number 10 postponed a vote on several other aspects of the bill after around 50 Tory MPs said they would oppose the legislation’s proposed housing targets.

The opposition said the next Labor government would reform planning rules for onshore wind farms, while a number of Labor MPs said they could back Clarke’s amendment, suggesting it could garner enough support to pose a serious threat to the No 10 power.

However, Downing Street will be reluctant to accept the amendment, given that a large number of Tory MPs, including ministers such as Chris Heaton Harris and Grant Shapps, have long spoken out against new wind farms.

Sunak has made it clear he will uphold the Conservative manifesto commitment to onshore wind development and maintain current planning rules, which are so restrictive they make it virtually impossible to build new projects. In addition, the government has further angered green groups by implementing plans to halt the development of solar farms.

Energy industry and climate campaigners have long argued that a de facto ban on onshore wind farms undermines Britain’s efforts to meet climate targets by driving up energy bills and leaving the country more dependent on expensive gas imports.

Their arguments are increasingly clashing with politicians across parliament, with polls showing overwhelming support for new onshore wind and solar farms.

Johnson did not lift the de facto ban earlier this year after opposition from his cabinet. But his Energy Security Strategy suggests the government may change the rules to allow some projects where public support has been secured.

During her time in No. 10, Truss offered to go further, backing plans to completely lift the de facto ban on new wind projects, even as she proposed tighter restrictions on solar projects on farmland.

The news comes yesterday as a coalition of climate, wildlife and energy poverty groups released an open letter calling on the government to remove barriers to onshore renewable energy development.

Perhaps Community Energy England, the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts are among a group of 20 organizations that backed the letter, which says that in the midst of climate, energy and cost-of-living crises, the government’s refusal to unlock onshore wind and threats to put up barriers to solar energy in England is “unbelievable” and will harm the climate, economy and communities.

The letter was published after Environment Minister Therese Coffey suggested this week that the government could push ahead with plans to ban solar energy projects on farmland.

“Onshore wind and solar are clean, cheap and popular,” said Alethea Warrington, campaigns manager for climate charity Possible. “After a record hot summer and a cold winter with blackouts, there should be no way for the government to even consider banning new land-based renewables in England.

“If the UK is to meet its vital climate targets and ensure households can afford to stay warm in winter, we need a rapid transition to clean, cheap renewable energy such as wind and solar. Unlocking new onshore wind and solar power can come forward across the UK to cut emissions and insulate communities from the worst shocks of this fossil fuel energy crisis.”

Duncan Law, acting chief executive of Community Energy England, said new projects in the right places could have broad public support. “At COP27, the Prime Minister recognized not only the humanitarian value of tackling climate change through a clean energy transition, but also the economic value,” he said. “Why then are government ministers on course to shut down the cheapest, cleanest and fastest-to-build domestic sources of energy we have – onshore wind and solar?

“These two forms of energy production are popular, especially among Conservative voters: 81 percent support a renewable energy project in their area, but they also allow communities to take control of the energy transition. Government should support, not hinder, local and community-led solutions “.

In related news, in Times reported today that Business Secretary Grant Shapps will next week confirm plans to extend the Energy Efficiency Companies Obligation (ECO) scheme to offer subsidies of up to £15,000 to households in tax bands A to D.

The scheme is expected to help up to 70,000 homes to make energy efficiency improvements such as insulation, with government subsidies covering up to 75 per cent of the cost. The move is expected to come alongside a new information campaign to encourage households to save energy this winter.

https://www.businessgreen.com/news/4060778/johnson-truss-join-onshore-wind-planning-rebellion Johnson and Truss join in on the insurgent planning of onshore wind

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