Sian Crampsie

The British government has announced that it will close renewables obligation (RO) support for onshore wind projects a year early.

Amber Rudd, the minister for Energy and Climate Change, said that RO subsidies for onshore wind projects would close from 1 April 2016, although there would be a grace period for wind projects that already had planning consent, a grid connection offer and evidence of land rights.

Rudd said that although onshore wind was an important part of the UK’s energy mix, the country had enough subsidised projects in the pipeline to meet renewable energy commitments. In an official statement to parliament, she added that there would be roughly 12.3 GW of onshore wind delivered in the UK by 2020."It is therefore appropriate to curtail further deployment of onshore wind, balancing the interests of onshore wind developers with those of the wider public," said Rudd. DECC estimates that around 5.2 GW of onshore wind will qualify for the grace period.

Trade body RenewableUK criticised the government’s move, which would leave "thousands of British jobs and millions of pounds worth of investment hanging in the balance", it said. "The government’s decision to end prematurely financial support for onshore wind sends a chilling signal not just to the renewable energy industry, but to all investors right across the UK’s infrastructure sectors," commented RenewableUK CEO Maria McCaffery. "It means this government is quite prepared to pull the rug from under the feet of investors even when this country desperately needs to clean up the way we generate electricity at the lowest possible cost – which is onshore wind. "If government was really serious about ending subsidy it should be working with industry to help us bring costs down, not slamming the door on the lowest cost option."

The RO is the UK’s main mechanism for supporting large-scale renewable energy projects, but is gradually being phased out and replaced by a contracts for difference (CFD) scheme.

In April this year, the government ended RO support for large-scale solar energy projects, one year ahead of schedule.