Talk about spin. Last week there was a deft slight of hand in UK energy politics as ministers set out new planning guidance for onshore wind farms.
The resultant changes will provide local communities with greater powers to block future developments, but will also offer greater incentives to accept them.
However, the measures, that will ensure that local opposition can override national energy targets, are likely to create concern for developers and investors alike. Not least because the changes are expected to see a five-fold increase in the benefits paid to communities hosting new initiatives.
That’s an expensive pill to swallow. Particularly given the already not insubstantial upfront costs associated with bringing new projects online.
The changes, that are due to be enforced before the end of 2013, will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the viability of future domestic projects. And the political shift will do nothing to close the growing disparity between UK energy policy and international developer and investor confidence.
Indeed, over the past five years alone approved onshore wind farm applications have already dropped from 70% in 2008, to around 35% in 2012.
That’s quite a shift. And while the current install base sits at around 4,000 turbines, there are still almost 6,000 energy generators that are either under construction or trapped in the planning system.
Now naturally, when it comes to the wider UK wind install base, onshore is now only a part of the story. For, when the industry gathers in Manchester later this week, we’ll receive the clearest picture yet of just how those estimated 973 UK offshore wind turbines signal the start of something new.
This, combined with the much-anticipated Energy Bill, that wound its way through parliament last week and that is now headed for the House of Lords, is intended to provide greater long-term investor and revenue certainty.
It’s a laudable goal. And it’s certainly something that’s been as divisive as it has been ambitious.
However, with a 2030 decarbonisation having already been cut, the challenge for the investors is to avoid viewing the framework in purely simplistic terms, as a menu without prices.
Whether this is indeed going to be the case, or whether instead, the Bill is going to be put the industry – and the offshore market in particular – on a path towards growth and competitiveness is very much up for debate.
And it’s something that I’m going to discussing with fellow panellists at the conference next week.
If you’re attending Offshore Wind 2013, do come and listen in.
The Inflation Reduction Act has sparked major optimism in the US renewables sector, but wind installations still fell 37% last year.