Tory wind farm plans 'disastrous'
Energy Secretary Ed Davey has warned that Tory plans to put an effective moratorium on new onshore wind farms will be "disastrous for business and jobs".
The Conservatives have promised to axe public subsidies for any newly-planned onshore turbines and give local councils the power to block new schemes if they win the 2015 general election.
A party source said the proposals, which would be put in place within six months of a Tory win, would "effectively curtail further large-scale onshore wind developments".
But Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister Mr Davey said: " We have already fought the Conservatives over capping onshore wind in this Government - and won.
"Putting the brakes on onshore wind would be disastrous for business and jobs in our growing green economy. Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of green energy, so cutting it could lead to higher bills.
"You can't trust the Conservatives on their own to build a fairer society. Only with Liberal Democrats in Government can we build a stronger economy and a fairer society."
The Tories have denied that their plans will force energy bills to rise because contributions to renewable power are legally capped until 2020.
Under the proposals e xisting wind farms and those already granted planning permission would be protected from the changes.
Tory Energy Minister Michael Fallon said they would be enough to meet 2020 emissions targets set by the European Union - meaning any further developments should not be subsidised.
He said: "Making sure that we have a good mixture of reliable energy is an important part of our long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain.
"We remain committed to cutting our carbon emissions. And renewable energy, including on-shore wind, has a key role in our future energy supply.
"But we now have enough bill payer-funded on-shore wind in the pipeline to meet our renewable energy commitments and there's no requirement for any more.
"That's why the next Conservative Government will end any additional bill payer subsidy for on-shore wind, and give local councils the decisive say on any new wind farms."
According to figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, some 13.8GW of on-shore wind is already built, under construction or with permission in Britain - sufficient to meet targets of 11 to 13GW, even if some existing projects fail through a lack of finance or other problems.
There is currently enough on-shore wind power in the system to power four million homes, forecast to rise to seven million by 2020 under the coalition's plans.
Conservative Party policy is for renewable power to operate alongside nuclear, gas, and carbon capture and storage, to lower emissions and maintain energy security.
The proposed planning changes would mean applications for large on-shore wind farms would be handled by councils through the locally-led planning system, not the Nationally Significant Infrastructure regime. This will need a change in the law, which a majority Conservative government would look to pass within six months of taking office.
Trade body RenewableUK warned that the Tory stance would be "bad news for jobs and energy bill-payers".
RenewableUK's deputy chief executive Maf Smith said: "Onshore wind is the cheapest form of renewable energy we have, and will be cheaper than new nuclear.
"The industry has already seen the support it gets reduced, and a trajectory for further reduction is laid out.
"However, cutting all support overnight amounts to a moratorium as the minister has suggested. That's bad news for jobs and energy bill-payers.
"Nearly 19,000 people currently owe their jobs to the onshore wind industry, with potential for thousands more jobs over the next decade."
Environmental campaigners condemned the Conservative policy, warning that it would increase bills and damage efforts to combat climate change.
Greenpeace UK's Louise Hutchins said: "This disastrous policy risks undermining our energy security, putting up bills, and wrecking efforts to stop climate change."
She added: "UN scientists have just warned about the risks of climate change and the need for a massive clean energy shift, yet the Tory right wing seems to think this is happening on a different planet.
"The hypocrisy is stunning. Our binding commitments on renewable energy will have to be met in the next parliament, so excluding the cheapest source of clean energy can only drive up bills more than necessary.
"The Tories claim to be on the side of hard-working families, yet their pandering to a small minority who don't like wind farms is raising energy costs for the rest of us."
Friends of the Earth's Donna Hume said: "Scrapping support for wind turbines would be bad news for jobs, energy bills and the environment.
"Onshore wind has fallen dramatically in price - it already costs less than nuclear, and is set to be cheaper than gas in the next few years.
"Scrapping wind subsidies, rather than phasing them out as costs fall, will simply lead to higher fuel bills for cash-strapped households and make it harder to tackle climate change.
"The Conservatives should be helping local communities take ownership of onshore wind. Pandering to the interests of the fossil fuel industry will end up costing the earth."