Wind farm 'could save residents over £110 energy costs a year'
Energy suppliers are offering residents in a North Cornish village living near wind turbines cheaper electricity.
Around 400 existing and new customers who live within two kilometres of Good Energy's Delabole wind farm could save more than £110 a year with a 20% discount.
While company chiefs hailed the offer as the country's first local electricity tariff, critics of wind farms said they were "suspicious" of the move.
The tariff will be brought in early next year at the site, which became the country's first commercial wind farm when it opened in 1991.
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If more electricity is generated than expected residents and customers will also qualify for an annual bonus of up to £50 per household.
The new tariff aims to respond directly to calls from the Government for wind farms to do more to reward the communities that host them.
Good Energy's chief executive Juliet Davenport said it was only fair local communities were rewarded for doing their bit for the environment.
She said: "Wind power has a huge role to play in meeting the UK's future energy needs and we think that it's only right that our local communities should be recognised for their contribution to tackling climate change and reducing the UK's reliance on expensive imported fossil fuels."
The future of onshore wind farms has been hotly debated both locally and nationally.
In September, Energy Secretary Ed Davey launched a consultation to explore how communities could secure financial, social and environmental benefit from hosting onshore wind farms.
But critics argue turbines are being imposed on communities and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has warned the Government against promoting a system in which communities are "paid off" to secure planning permission.
Significant opposition to onshore wind farms has also been voiced by a number of Tory MPs in the run-up to the Government's Energy Bill, due to be published this week. Some want to see subsidies for the technology slashed.
Latest data from the Department of Energy and Climate Change's quarterly survey into public attitudes revealed 66% of people were in favour of onshore wind, although the figure was lower than for other renewable technologies.
Onshore wind had the highest level of opposition of the renewable energy sources, although only 12% opposed the technology, with just 4% strongly opposed to it.
Alan Nunn, of Realistic Energy Forum South West, said residents in Delabole needed to be careful about the tariff rate they were signing up to, which could increase.
He said: "I'm very suspicious of the company's motives here. For a start Good Energy will get so much in government subsidies it won't make any difference to them how much discount they give locals.
"We really need to know if Good Energy are doing this as a sweetener simply to get more turbines running, which is no good for Cornwall because they ruin the landscape and are inefficient. It's really just a bit of PR for the company."
However, consumer experts said cheaper energy was of major importance to customers.
Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which? magazine, said rising energy prices were one of consumers' top concerns.
He said: "Customers being hit hard by inflation-busting price rises from big supplies should now ask why some of the smaller suppliers can buck the trend."