Opinions on Wind Farms: Is the UK For or Against Them?
|Topic: New wind farm projects||Read Time: 6 mins|
| Landowner type:
Independent landowners | Institutional landowners
|Energy: Onshore wind|
Are you trying to gauge opinions on wind farms in the UK? Join us as we explore whether the country is for or against wind farms in this deep dive into political and public opinion.
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss’s leadership debate was the talk of British politics at the tail-end of 2022. And that includes their opinions on wind farms in the UK (and whether new ones should be built or de-facto-banned). But do the views of these two politicians reflect the wider opinions of the party they represent? Are the public largely for or against new projects? Or perhaps you’re wondering whether Labour has significantly different views on the subject.
Whatever you’re trying to find out, our rundown of opinions on wind farms in the UK should answer all your questions. Now, let’s get right to it.
Political opinions on wind farms tend to be the loudest. So, they’re first on our docket of what we’ll tackle in this review. The first thing we’ll say is that the option of general political supporters varies from what parties themselves advertise. So, it’s worth outlining that from the outset, as we’ll strictly be covering manifesto-based opinions in this political section.
We’ve mentioned this as research shows that opinions on wind power aren’t necessarily split by political beliefs. Instead, it seems to be a small fraction of Conservative MPs (including Rishi Sunak) who have attacked onshore wind. It’s worth mentioning that there seems to be more general support for offshore wind, but let’s dig deeper, shall we?
To put things simply, Conservative opinions on wind farms are complicated. Now, before we discuss this further, we’ll mention that Conservative MPs used to be far more opposed to onshore wind. This prompted former Prime Minister David Cameron to bring in a de facto ban in 2015. The “ban” meant that just 16 new turbines received planning permission between 2016 and 2020.
This marked an incredible 96% drop compared to previous years, acting as a nail in the coffin for onshore wind in the UK. This was before Sunak was appointed Prime Minister and decided to U-turn on his previously positive stance regarding onshore wind. Ministers were previously stating that they would put policies in place to build more onshore wind farms to reach net-zero limits. But Sunak quickly backtracked to satisfy Tory voters who didn’t particularly want wind turbines near their properties.
Along with pushing back the ban on new petrol and diesel cars until 2035, it doesn’t seem as though the party has Green Policy on the brain.
Is it creating a wedge between the two parties?
Some Conservatives believe that the party is sacrificing Green Policy and ignoring the looming climate crisis.
Ed Miliband has even stated that:
The Tory leadership is way out of line with the British people, who do not want to see the consensus for climate and environmental action broken.
And with wind energy being incredibly clean and effective, several Tory peers are choosing to bite back. For example, Lord Debden stated that “having a basic opposition to [onshore wind] is just not a sensible thing.” It’s also worth mentioning that even previous Tory Prime Minister Theresa May has noted that the UK was “putting at risk its reputation as a leader in climate policy.”
It seems that the Conservative leaders are not taking a strong stance on climate matters and are instead creating a “wedge issue” over wind policy. And when you take the current planning permission restrictions into account that have put a de facto ban on new wind projects? Well, it becomes easy to see that the leaders of the Conservative Party seem staunchly opposed to wind.
A U-turn on the horizon
It’s worth noting that Sunak has recently U-turned on wind farms again as of September 2023. Political correspondence from September 3rd, 2023 shows that Sunak is planning to overturn the ban on building new wind farms. This should free up councils to give the green light to proposed turbines where there is broad public support.
Although this isn’t a complete green light for new projects, it’s certainly an improvement on what’s currently in place. An amendment table has also been put together by a group of Tories and backbenchers that has attracted signatures from “all wings of the party.” Removing these restrictions would certainly boost the amount of clean energy the UK could produce each year. And with that, the country is bound to come closer to meeting net-zero obligations.
Labour’s views on onshore wind tend to be more straightforward as they broadly support it as a concept. Keir Starmer has voiced a commitment to wind power as late as June 2023, and their stance hasn’t changed since.
The party leadership appears to be much more in favour of wind than the Conservative leadership. Labour has even stated that they’ll double down on their pledge to end the de facto ban on new wind projects if elected. This will largely be accomplished by making planning permission far easier to achieve and removing restrictive roadblocks.
Current legislation states that projects can only be green-lit when local concerns over construction are “fully addressed.” This simple but restrictive wording is enough to prevent most projects from going ahead at the moment.
To encourage new projects to get into the planning and building stages, Labour plans to take a crucial step forward. Under new planned legislation, communities won’t be able to veto new projects as the government attempts to reach net-zero limits. To soften the blow against objections, the plan would reward locals with money off their energy bills.
Public opinion on wind farms is far more favourable than the Conservative Party tends to admit. To start with, 80% of people in the UK support the use of onshore wind energy, with half of these strongly supporting it. From polling results, it’s said that only 4% of people in the UK oppose onshore wind energy (with just 1% strongly opposing).
Polling by Survation (that was commissioned by RenewableUK) proves that there is overwhelming public support for new wind projects. An impressive 76% of people claim that they would support new projects in their area.
If we laser in on Conservative voters, it’s interesting to see that 84% who backed the party at the previous election support new projects to slash energy bills. It’s tricky to say whether this support is born from the increase in energy prices around the country or not. But the increase in support for projects is an undeniable positive from a climate standpoint.
To further support this point, an Oxford Brookes University study has shown that people overestimated opposition to turbines in their area five-fold. So, the “Not in My Backyard” feelings are likely far less intense across the country than people might expect.
Of course, there is a small subsection of the population that wouldn’t ever want to live near a wind farm. But overall, we’re seeing evidence that these numbers are decreasing year on year.
The other side of the coin
We will say that there are members of UK communities that oppose the noise generated by turbines. But overall, there’s far more support for wind power in the UK than the Conservative Leadership was touting even a year ago. We’ve also noticed from our own experience that opposition to wind power has decreased significantly since the 1980s. As more wind farms have popped up, landowners have started to see them as a way to generate additional revenue. Plus, new technology means that the average turbine is far less disruptive and more aesthetically pleasing than ever before.
Are There Better Sources of Renewable to Use In the UK?
Because of the UK’s natural wind resources, building wind turbines is a relatively efficient and cost-effective way of producing energy. Although commercial projects require a hefty investment upfront to get them up and running, they tend to recoup this investment within 10-15 years. You could argue that hydroelectric power, natural gas, and solar power are also viable alternatives to wind in the UK. But based on its efficiency and abundance, wind typically comes out on top.
The general public support for wind farms is a good sign that the government may eventually be able to meet net-zero limits. If planning permission regulations remain as they are (which essentially bans new projects), climate goals will simply be out of reach. It’s also important to note that increasing our production of wind energy reduces our reliance on foreign gas. And if we can produce the majority of our energy within the country, the price of energy should plummet in due course. This is a reality that’s still several years away, but increasing investment in renewable energy projects can only benefit the average Brit.
If you’re interested in hosting a renewable energy project on your land (or already have one), feel free to get in touch with the Lumify team. We can help you maximise the rental income you receive and demystify the process of getting a project up and running.