Government policies over the last decade which hampered the roll-out of onshore wind power in Britain might be adding close to a billion pounds to energy bills this winter, new analysis suggests.
Without a 2016 decision to effectively ban the construction of onshore wind in most parts of England developers could have built enough turbines to generate around 2.5 terawatt hours of energy – enough to power 1.5 million homes through the winter.
This would also have reduced the need to use gas power plants, saving 4.9 TWh of gas which could be used to heat more than half a million homes, research from the Energy and Climate Change Intelligence Unit (ECIU) suggests.
Onshore wind farms would also have benefitted from being included in Government-backed funding schemes, the analysis said.
Between them the decisions might have added around £800 million to bills this winter.
“This analysis shows how banning onshore wind has left us more reliant on expensive gas this winter, exposing more families and businesses to the effects of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” said Simon Clarke, a Conservative MP pushing for the ban to be lifted.
“We shouldn’t go back to the old system of imposing wind farms on people but give communities a genuine say.
“Unlocking Britain’s wind potential, where communities agree, would cut everyone’s energy bills and allow local residents to benefit from rebates for hosting these cheap renewables.”
In the five years before the ban around 330 megawatts (MW) of onshore wind were hooked up to the grid every year, the analysis found.
But just 270 MW was installed in the combined six years since it was implemented.
By this winter an extra 1.7 gigawatts of capacity could have been added to Britain’s electricity network, ECIU said.
The organisation said that its own polling suggests around a quarter of Conservative party voters support onshore wind farms in their areas, compared with a fifth who would oppose any plans.
Proponents of the technology argue that it is quicker, cheaper and easier to install and maintain than offshore wind. However, both technologies, and more, are likely to be needed to reach the country’s environmental goals.
ECIU head of analysis Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin said: “Putting in place the ban on onshore wind has cost bill payers dear this winter.
“This alongside a lost decade of installing insulation in homes has left many households paying hundreds of pounds more and the taxpayer picking up the rest of the tab through the energy price freeze.”