Fact-check
License: All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace

John Hayes: Policy, Fact and Fiction

Damian Kahya
Damian Kahya is the Energydesk editor and former foreign, business and energy reporter for the BBC. You can following him on Twitter @damiankahya
License: All rights reserved. Credit: Steve Morgan / Greenpeace

So it's clear then.

The government opposes more onshore wind. "Enough is enough," says the energy minister in The Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Only it wasn't what he said in his speech - quoted word for word in today's Guardian. 

So, what is fact, what is policy and what is just John Hayes' personal view - albeit curiously expressed from a ministerial chair.

The specific claims

1) Mr Hayes is understood to believe there should be a moratorium on new onshore windfarms and was quoted as saying "enough is enough".

It's worth noting that whilst the minister did clearly say "enough is enough" so someone he wasn't quoted calling for a moratorium - the logical next step. So that looks like an off the record briefing.

DECC have said there is no change government policy. Indeed the idea of a moratorium appeared completely new to almost everyone we spoke to.

Indeed Sunday Times reported over the weekend that a letter from Mr Hayes to a Lincolnshire councillor suggested onshore wind build would continue in line with DECC's projections.

2) “We have issued a call for evidence on wind. That is about cost but also about community buy-in."

This is true.

DECC have issued a call for evidence, but, as the department clarified this morning, that call for evidence is about ensuring communities benefit from wind developments and about the long term cost of onshore wind. 

For example, DECC press release suggests it will look at "How wind farms could deliver wider environmental and social benefits to communities e.g. by providing grants for playgrounds."

"The Government will also seek the latest information on the cost of onshore wind to confirm whether subsidies from April 2014 have been set at the correct level," the release adds.

3) “I have asked the planning minister to look again at the relationship between these turbines and the landscape."

This appears the clearest divergence from government policy. DECC told Energydesk that they knew of no such review by DECC or anyone else, in a statement released earlier today DECC said:

“There are no targets - or caps - for individual renewable technologies such as onshore wind.  Nor are there reviews being done of onshore wind on the basis of landscape or property values."

4) Almost 4,000 wind turbines are to be built across britain in the coming years (Telegraph), 3,800 turbines are in operation (Mail)

John Hayes' comments were reported in the context of a apparent flood of new wind turbines set to be constructed in order to meet the government's renewables targets, which - both papers reported - requires 13GW of onshore wind.

The source for that number is the government's renewables roadmap which outlines 13GW from onshore wind as it's 'central scenario', so, it's a scenario - not a target.

However it's hard to source either papers' figures. DECC told Energydesk

"Turbine numbers are currently 3300 onshore.  Deployment numbers are 5GW installed and operating, 2,300 under construction, 4,300 awaiting construction and 6,700 in the planning system." - SEE UPDATE BELOW.

The department claimed onshore wind operated at about a 25% load factor, generating 10.4Twh of electricity, a 45% increase on the previous year.

It's worth noting that many of those turbines awaiting construction may not be built due to recent changes in the onshore wind subsidies regime

Much of what is currently in the planning system will also not be consented, under current rules.

It's not clear whether John Hayes is proposing changing those rules in order to block any further consents - but it is clear that this is not government policy.

5) The energy minister indicated that only a minority of the thousands of wind turbines currently put forward for planning permission are likely to be given the go-ahead. He said that this would be enough to fulfil green targets set by the Government. (Telegraph).

As noted above, it doesn't require a change in government policy to limit the number of turbines that get through planning. Energydesk hasn't yet been able to verify the exact proportions of applications that get through - so any comments on this welcome.

The government's targets - as they've said - are not specific to any one renewable technology. They are even considering meeting them by importing 'renewable credits' from other countries. 

However the figures from DECC suggest that there are enough turbines currently consented and in planning to meet onshore wind's share of the 2020 targets, as envisaged in the Renewable Energy Roadmap central scenario.

However, some, such as Tim Yeo are arguing for a larger slice of the 2020 target cake to come from onshore wind and for that reason DECC are refusing to put a limit on onshore wind build.

The argument over wind

That's probably because onshore wind is the cheapest form of clean energy currently available. The rising gas price and falling cost of onshore wind mean, according to DECC, that the cost difference between the two has halved in four years.

The department also released figures suggesting that in 2011 onshore wind added a total of £6 to the cost of the average bill, supported 8,600 jobs and was worth £548 to the UK economy. We're trying to source this data but in the meantime you can see our breakdown of the average bill and assessment of future costs

UPDATE

We've had an update from DECC on the turbine numbers - this time put in GW rather than number of turbine terms. It's likely the previous numbers were calculations from these.

"Turbine numbers are currently 3,300 onshore.  Deployment numbers are 5GW installed and operating, 2.3GW under construction, 4.3GW awaiting construction and 6.7GW in the planning system. Under central scenario in Renewable Roadmap we forecast 13 GW of onshore wind by 2020."
This is important because many newer onshore wind turbines are more powerful than older ones - around 2.5MW according to Renewables UK - compared to 1MW. 

If you assume, as DECC originally did, that each turbine generates 1MW of power at full pelt than 4.3MW awaiting construction is 4,300 turbines. If you assume its 2.5MW than that's 1720 - far fewer than claimed by the Telegraph. The actual number is probably somewhere in between.

 


Comments Add new comment

I think you are getting your GWs and MWs in a muddle in the Update. I know what you mean though

Even if Mid Wales communities were happy to trade playgrounds for unspoiled countryside the downline communities blighted by 160ft power lines are offered nothing. If the costs of reduced property values were factored in then the claim that on shore wind was low cost would not be made.

If the cost of reduced property values due to climate change were factored in then the claim that gas is in any way comparable to any renewable would not be made.

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