Thank you for contacting me about onshore wind power.
I absolutely agree with you on this important issue and we should be doing a great deal more as a nation to invest in our future.
For too long climate change has been viewed as tomorrow’s problem – an issue that will affect future generations. The urgency for change has become strikingly evident, in light of the recent extreme flooding across Europe. I fear that without a substantial change to our attitudes towards fossil fuels, these events will become much more regular with increasingly disastrous consequences.
Therefore I believe we need to establish a clear and ambitious target to more than double our current onshore wind capacity to a target of 30 gigawatts (GW) by 2030. As Renewable UK estimates, this would add £45 billion to the UK economy and create 27,000 high quality jobs. We must also bring forward planning reform in England, so that projects that are consistent with the UK’s energy needs and command local support can go ahead.
Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of zero carbon power available, yet the Government has imposed an effective moratorium on it since 2015. As a result, new onshore wind projects have largely dried up. From 2016 to 2020, for example, new onshore wind applications decreased by 96% – indeed, in the last four years only four turbines a year have been approved.
I believe this block on onshore wind is a terrible mistake and has never made sense. Without it, we would be in a better position when it comes to achieving net zero and tackling the climate emergency, since as Renewable UK has highlighted, under the current restrictions, planning authorities are approving less than half of the onshore wind capacity we need to achieve our climate targets. We would also be in a better position when it comes to energy security and the cost of living: the moratorium has added almost £2 billion to UK energy bills, while denying us power each and every year equivalent to our gas imports from Russia.
Furthermore, this has also had an impact on jobs. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, employment in the UK’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy fell by about 28,000 from 2014 to 2020, with some of the steepest declines seen in the onshore wind sector.
I therefore agree that the Government must reverse its block on onshore wind as soon as possible and provide the investment in the green transition that we need. I can assure you that I will continue to support efforts to press it on this issue, as well as calls for a green new deal that invests in jobs in onshore wind.
More broadly I’m really proud the Labour Party has a policy for a Green Economic Recovery, with £30 billion in planned capital investment brought forward as part of a rapid stimulus package to support up to 400,000 new, clean jobs in manufacturing and other key sectors. This will work to accelerate investment in clean projects such as energy efficiency, flood prevention, offshore wind, cycling and walking infrastructure and the electric vehicle charging network would help to create secure, stable employment in every corner of the country right now. We have an opportunity to be the leading light on tackling climate change, by introducing bold and forward thinking green policies.
As well as the clear environmental benefits of investing in renewables, the current cost of living crises has identified the fragility of relying on oil and gas. We need to ensure this crisis isn’t reproduced, therefore I believe we need a fundamental reform of our energy system. We must unleash the potential of British businesses and entrepreneurs so we can lead the world in new industries. Labour would seize the opportunities of the climate transition to create well-paid, secure jobs in all parts of the country.
Likewise it is imperative that we reduce our reliance on imported gas by accelerating home-grown renewables and new nuclear energy. By making sure 19 million homes are warm and well-insulated, saving households an average of £400 a year on their bills. Finally I want to regulate the market better, with a pledge to never again let energy companies play fast and loose with the rules.