2011 was a record breaking year for wind energy deployment and generation. At the end of the year wind energy installed capacity passed the 6 gigawatt milestone, and on 28 December wind energy alone was meeting a record 12.2% of the UK’s demand for electricity. The industry employs over 10,000 people already, and the number is growing.
These achievements add weight to the already compelling argument that wind energy and other forms of renewables are no longer an ‘alternative’ source of energy, but form an integral part of our energy mix.
However, this unprecedented growth and success has inevitably brought with it greater scrutiny of the economic impact of renewables.
This debate has intensified over recent months as consumer energy bills rise and the reality of an impending energy deficit gets ever more real.
Efforts have been made by proponents of traditional energy sources to paint wind as the villain in all of this; nevertheless, wind power only represents about £10 of the average annual domestic energy bill. Increasing fossil fuel prices are to blame for the majority of the increase in energy costs we’ve seen over the last few years.
Minimising our exposure to volatile fossil fuel prices requires an expansion of renewables – which is why we’ve called on the Government to retain the present levels of support for onshore and offshore wind. But this has to be achieved in such a way as to ensure that the communities hosting renewable energy projects share in their benefits too.
Right now, the business rates for onshore wind projects are abstracted into a central Government fund before being redistributed. RenewableUK believes they should be retained at the local level – not just the local authority area, but the locality of the wind farm itself. Doing so would allow communities to better understand the advantages of hosting a wind farm, and alongside the funding that signatories to our Community Benefit Protocol provide, help support communities to direct their own development.
We’re calling on the Chancellor to include this provision in the upcoming budget. We believe that the shift towards renewable energy is something from which everyone can benefit.