The renewable energy industry has warned incoming energy secretary Amber Rudd of a legal challenge if her department cuts existing subsidies for onshore wind farms.
Since taking up her position, Rudd has reiterated the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to “end any new public subsidy” for wind farms and change the law to allow local residents to veto building plans.
It is now expected that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will announce this week that the existing subsidy scheme for onshore wind power, the Renewable Obligation (RO), will be closed in April 2016 rather than April 2017, the Guardian has reported.
A lawyer representing trade body RenewableUK, writing in the Guardian, has now warned the DECC secretary that stopping the RO scheme a year early could lead to legal action.
Marcus Trinick said: “Please be aware of the dangers of state aid discrimination and look at what is happening in international energy arbitration across Europe.
“In such a position we could not afford not to fight, especially if action is taken to interfere retrospectively.”
Trinick suggested that the majority of the public would be against Rudd’s plans, which he said were intended to appeal to Tory backbenchers who disliked the appearance of turbines.
He pointed to the industry’s success in generating more than 5% of the UK’s electricity, employing 19,000 people, and said with continued investment this would rise to 10%.
Rudd responded: “We’ve said that there will be no more new subsidies for onshore wind farms and we are now looking at options to deliver that commitment. We haven’t announced any details yet so it i’s premature to talk about retrospective changes at this stage.”
A DECC statement added: “We will shortly be publishing our plans to reform the RO and Feed-In Tariff scheme to implement this commitment. With the cost of supplying onshore wind falling, Government subsidy is no longer appropriate.”