The United Kingdom was the first major economy to legislate for net zero carbon emissions and I am encouraged that, since 2000, the UK has decarbonised faster than any other G7 country.
I understand onshore wind is a key part of the Government’s strategy for low-cost decarbonisation of the energy sector. Achieving net zero by 2050 will require increased deployment across a range of technologies, including onshore wind.
It is for this reason that I welcome that, as part of the new Energy Security Strategy, the Government will be consulting on developing partnerships with a limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for guaranteed lower energy bills. In addition, I am encouraged that onshore wind prices are down 50 per cent since 2013.
The Energy White Paper stated that there will need to be sustained growth in the capacity of onshore wind over the next decade alongside solar and offshore wind. Therefore, I was glad that in March 2020 the Government announced that onshore wind and other established renewable technologies such as solar PV will be able to compete in the latest Contracts for Difference (CfD) allocation round. The round is now open and will aim to deliver up to double the renewable capacity of the last successful round in 2019 with £285 million a year.
Furthermore, the Hydrogen Strategy made clear that Scotland has a key role to play in the development of a UK hydrogen economy, with the potential to produce industrial-scale quantities of hydrogen from offshore and onshore wind resources, wave and tidal power, as well as with Carbon Capture Usage and Storage.
Offshore and onshore wind developers are required to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment as part of any planning application. The Environmental Impact Assessment seeks to protect the environment by ensuring that the planning authority considers any significant effects as part of the decision-making process and that the local community are informed of any impacts.
For onshore wind projects in England, the local authority is the primary decision maker for all sizes of schemes. Planning tests were introduced in 2015 that ensure that local communities have the final say on onshore wind farm developments. This means that a local community can raise concerns based on the publicly available information in the Environmental Impact Assessment, and a development cannot be granted permission if these concerns have not been addressed.
Moreover, constraint payments are made by the National Grid to balance supply and demand across the electricity network on warm, windy days when turbines can produce a lot of electricity that is not needed. This is the most efficient option to balance supply and demand, keep costs down for consumers and ensure secure and reliable electricity.
Alternatively, to manage the surplus amount of electricity produced, more electricity transmission infrastructure would have to be built. This would be more costly, meaning consumers' bills would rise. I am aware that National Grid continuously weigh up constraint costs versus the cost of building an asset in a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.
I will continue to monitor any future developments closely.