We need a balanced mix in a renewables-led energy revolution, says CPRE

6 April 2022

Commenting on the government’s energy strategy, Tom Fyans, Director of Campaigns and Policy at CPRE, the countryside charity, said:

‘We have yet to see the full details but at first glance there are serious concerns about the imbalance between offshore wind and solar energy. In particular, the scale of the expansion of solar energy seems likely to industrialise the countryside rather than heralding a new era of popular rooftop renewables. These proposals suggest offshore wind – by far the least landscape damaging option that has the most public support – would be under utilised at the expense of the countryside, which we also need to grow food and soak up carbon. Renewables done well should be supported but the countryside can’t just write a blank cheque. We need smart, not speculative, solar that communities will get behind.’

On offshore wind:
‘We are disappointed not to see more focus and investment in offshore windfarms – and would like to see far more ambition. The UK is blessed with some of the strongest and most reliable offshore wind in the world and it makes complete sense to take advantage of this. Not only will this help secure our energy supply long term, it is also the best route to strong public backing for renewables.’

On solar:
‘Solar is a vital part of the renewables-led revolution and that’s why we need to be smart in our approach. There is no need to industrialise the countryside, which would generate huge public opposition – particularly when no one would bat an eyelid if solar panels were installed on the roof of every warehouse in the country. That’s why rooftop renewables should be the default and solar should be required for all new industrial and commercial developments – with more incentives for homeowners to install solar panels. A modernised network of rooftop renewable energy is a vision the whole nation could get behind.’

On onshore wind:
‘We need a land use strategy so that any new onshore wind farms are located in the least damaging locations, something that has been sorely lacking until now. The climate emergency is the most serious threat the countryside faces and nothing can be off the table, including onshore wind. It’s vital we protect and enhance our natural heritage for future generations to enjoy – and that means our landscapes may need to change in the short term to save them in the long term. Local communities who propose their own sensitive wind farms in locations with little landscape harm involved should be supported to do so. What we need to see is developers bringing forward well thought through schemes in collaboration with the people who will live alongside them, not a weakening of the planning system.’

On subsidised bills:
‘That’s why subsidised energy bills for communities living near solar or wind farms are a regressive step – good proposals don’t need them. Any suggestion communities are being bribed to accept an otherwise unsuitable development could seriously damage trust in the planning system. A far better solution would be for the money set aside for subsidised bills to instead be spent improving the energy efficiency of local homes, which would offer an immediate and permanent reduction in energy use, bringing down household bills and protecting the environment at the same time.’

On nuclear:
‘A new generation of nuclear power stations is a poor decision for many reasons, not least because of concerns about disposing of nuclear waste and the high cost. However, the biggest concern is the impossibility of delivering new nuclear energy soon enough. As this week’s IPCC report made crystal clear, gas emissions must peak by 2025 if we are to have any chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. There is no way a new generation of nuclear power can come online fast enough to help in the immediate energy crisis or to get us to net zero in time. We need to develop renewable energy and energy storage solutions at the same time as working to reduce energy demand.’

On fracking:
‘As for fracking, it’s outrageous that fracking is back on the table. It’s a non-starter; an absurd idea guaranteed to result in huge public protests. The less said about fracking the better – fossil fuels need to be consigned to history, not blasted out of the countryside.’

On hydrogen:
‘While hydrogen undoubtedly has a role to play in future it currently relies too heavily on technology unproven at scale and leaves us stuck with unabated gas use as a transitional fuel. A much greater emphasis needs to be placed on energy demand reduction.’

On land use:
‘There are workable solutions to both protect and enhance the countryside at the same time as upgrading our electricity network. Our long-term food security, energy security and climate security all need to be prioritised in a rapidly changing world. That’s why we’re calling on the government to think develop a Land Use Strategy, which balances the need to feed, power and house the country, while enhancing our ability to tackle the climate emergency, which is the biggest threat to the countryside. We support renewable energy but firmly believe that high-quality agricultural land should remain protected in the National Planning Policy Framework.’

ENDS

For further information or to interview a spokesperson, please contact:
Sam Relph, CPRE Media Relations Lead, at samr@cpre.org.uk or 020 7981 2827 / 07739 332796