I) The Conjoined Public Inquiry into 6 planning applications for wind farms/132kv line has just ended. The Inquiry took a year. We expect the Inspector to write up his report, including decision recommendations and send it to the Dept of Climate Change before the end of 2014. We have no idea when the Secretary of State will announce his decision. And we do not know whether judicial review of that decision will be sought or secured. At the same time, National Grid are ploughing on with preparations to seek consent to build a 400kv line from North Shropshire to Cefn Coch (around 40 miles) to serve these and many other wind farms just sitting in the planning system. At some stage, National Grid will announce it's proposals for statutory public consultation. We do not know when this will happen.
2) We expect the subsidy arrangements for onshore wind to change in April 2017. At present, any wind farm which secures planning permission, is built and starts producing electricity will receive a guaranteed level of subsidy. Any wind farm not producing by April 2017 will have no guarantee of receiving any subsidy at all, which would make them totally unviable. The new system of Govt subsidy will be based on 'Contracts for Difference'. This involves a whole range of renewable energy projects applying to a 'pot' of subsidy on a competitive basis. At that time the Govt will decide which projects to support. And when the 'pot' is used up, there will not be more subsidy available. Wind farm permissions will no longer be a licence to print money.
3) The Conservatives have stated unambiguously that if they form the Govt after May 2015, steps will be taken to end onshore wind subsidies, except in special cases. The target that was set for onshore wind by Govt in support of carbon reduction policy will have been met - several years early. It's expected that the moratorium will be in place by Nov 2015 (17 months time). The Conservatives have also stated unambiguously that local opinion, as expressed through the planning process will not be over-ruled on appeal. No will mean No as far as refusal of planning permission is concerned. We do not know what the stance of any coalition or alternative government would be post 2015.
It's after taking all the above into account that I have recently taken the view that I do not think the Mid Wales Connection Project, which National Grid are reported to have already spent £10million on, will go ahead. Until a few weeks ago, I've never said more that that I thought there was a chance of stopping this project. I also think that the case against agreeing all the proposals before the Public Inquiry is so strong, that there is a very strong probability that the decision will be subject to judicial review. So now we await developments.
I want to end this post, and probably comments on onshore wind for a good while, by paying tribute to the amazing commitment by the protestors. Many of these volunteers have given up months, sometimes years, of their lives to organise a brilliantly professional campaign of opposition. I can never forget the astonishing public meeting at Welshpool Livestock Mart, and the 38 bus loads of people who travelled to protest on the steps of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. A picture which will remain in my mind forever was the scene when I gave my evidence to the Inquiry when there were just volunteers on one side and perhaps 15 barristers, etc., all paid for at electricity consumers expense on the other. We must be heartened that David did defeat Goliath. The protest movement has been brilliant. Without it I would have been able to achieve nothing at the Westminster level. They love Mid-Wales, and have shown a commitment and sacrifice which will ensure I, and others who really love this wonderful place, will forever be grateful.