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Wind farm subsidy cuts blasted by MP.

Byline: Jonathan Walker Political Editor

THE Government has cut subsidies for wind farms "to appease climate change sceptics", an MP has claimed.

Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, said the cuts would reduce investment in the North East and could lead to carmaker Nissan cancelling plans for a new wind turbines.

And she rejected government claims that the change was designed to reduce fuel bills - saying it was in fact an attempt to win support from people who do not believe in man-made climate change.

Storms Desmond and Eva wreaked havoc across the North East over Christmas, with many homes across Northumberland and County Durham falling victim to flooding.

Experts are generally reluctant to blame climate change for specific weather events, but the Met Office's Chief Scientist, Professor Dame Julia Slingo, said last month: "From basic physical understanding of weather systems it is entirely plausible that climate change has exacerbated what has been a period of very wet and stormy weather arising from natural variability." Energy Secretary Amber Rudd announced last year that the Government was ending subsidies for new onshore wind farms, which are funded by a levy on energy companies and ultimately paid for by consumers. Mrs Elliott said the change would save bill-payers an average of 30p, adding: "This policy is projected to save PS20 million, out of a budget in 2021 of PS7.9 billion. This measure does not appear to be protecting bill payers at all. Rather, it seems drafted for the purpose of appeasing climate change sceptics."

If the Government planned to meet its targets for cutting carbon emissions caused by energy production - the pollution believed to cause climate change - then the UK would need to build more offshore wind farms which are actually more expensive, she said.

And she argued that it would be hard for businesses to invest in renewable energy, highlighting carmaker Nissan's plan to add five more turbines to ten already running on its site by the side of the A19, which contribute towards energy needs at its Sunderland plant where 4,500 people are directly employed.

She said: "Nissan in Sunderland recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change regarding a PS3 million investment it wished to make in extending a wind farm on its site - a letter to which, I understand, Nissan has not yet received a reply.

"The aim of the project is to generate more, and cleaner, energy on site, so that less needs to be procured from outside. But the Government's 18 June announcement on the renewables obligation and onshore wind has placed this development in serious jeopardy."

A spokesman for Nissan said: "Nissan has applied for planning permission to extend the wind farm at our Sunderland Plant by an additional five turbines. We are currently discussing the availability of grant support with the UK Government."

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom responded to the comments by arguing that subsidies for renewable energy risked causing poverty.

She said: "I find it extraordinary that Labour Members seem to equate the deployment of renewables with decarbonisation. That is simply not the case. "They fail to recognise that fuel poverty and endless renewables subsidies go hand in hand. They need to recognise that."


<B Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, claims that wind farm subsidy cuts were made "to appease climate change sceptics"
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 27, 2016
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