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Forget The Spin: UK Government Is Accelerating Development Of Wind Farms

Tim Ross, Edward Malnick and Robert Mendick, The Sunday Telegraph

Record numbers of onshore wind farms have been approved for construction this year as power companies cash in on hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidies.

The number of turbine projects granted planning permission has more than doubled over the last two years, according to the latest figures, prompting fears that hand-outs for energy firms are too high.

A growing public backlash against green energy levies on household bills, and the spread of wind turbines across the countryside, has led senior Tories to plot radical steps to protect the landscape and cut costs for customers.

Conservative ministers have drawn up a four-point plan to prevent the growth of wind farms and other forms of renewable energy such as solar power plants from blighting the countryside.

David Cameron used last week’s Cabinet reshuffle to promote a leading critic of wind farms, Kris Hopkins, to the post of minister responsible for planning turbine projects.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, is also said to be determined to cut household gas and electricity costs by reducing the “green levy” that adds an estimated £110 to customers’ bills.

But they are facing fierce resistance from Nick Clegg, whose Liberal Democrats are blocking attempts to reduce energy bills by withdrawing support for green schemes.

Householders have been warned that they face sharp increases in their heating bills this winter. Last week, the energy giant, Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) announced it was increasing prices for customers by 8.2 per cent.

The firm’s chief executive blamed the current system of green energy subsidies, which companies add to household bills, for one third of the increase and demanded a review of the government’s environmental energy strategy.

A typical household gas and electricity bill would fall by £110 overnight if the government paid for loft insulation schemes and green energy subsidies through the tax system instead of extra charges to consumers, the firm said.

Conservatives fear they are running out of time to respond to soaring household energy costs after Ed Miliband’s popular promise to freeze household gas and electricity bills.

However, senior Liberal Democrats, including Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, and Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, are opposing any attempt to weaken support for renewable energy industry.

Latest figures from Mr Davey’s department showed that the number of new onshore wind farms and smaller turbine developments which have won planning permission is rising dramatically.

Between the beginning of January and the end of August, 188 new onshore wind farms, including large and small developments, were given permission by planning authorities, a 49 per cent increase on the same eight-month period in 2012.

It is also more than double the rate of planning permissions granted for the same period in 2011, when 83 turbine projects were approved.

At the same time the amount of electricity being generated by onshore wind farms has risen by 70 per cent since 2012.

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