Wind farm subsidies used to create jobs
A Westcountry MP and Downing Street advisor on energy and climate change has dismissed a report that says each job the wind turbine industry creates is subsidised to the tune of £100,000.
George Eustice, MP for Camborne and Redruth, who famously adopted a strong stance against wind farm proliferation before taking the Government post, said it was not the right method by which to measure the industry.
The Camborne and Redruth MP was speaking in response to a Sunday Telegraph investigation that showed wind turbine owners received £1.2 billion in the form of consumer subsidies last year, meaning each of the 12,000 jobs created was effectively subsidised by £100,000.
The figures have been described by critics as evidence the sector was not economically viable, with local campaign group Cornwall Protect saying it was proof of that the fact wind farms create jobs was a "myth".
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But Mr Eustice said: "I think it's unfair to judge the industry by how many jobs it creates but we should judged it on how efficient they are as a means of generating green energy.
"It is the most effective form of renewable energy but it costs more than other source, as well having an impact on the landscape and the environment. In the future it is going to be part of our energy mix."
Cornwall-based Lord Teverson, who leads on energy and climate change for the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, agreed the subsidies were not primarily for "a job creation programme", but rather allowed Britain to compete at the forefront of the renewable technology industry.
He said: "There are some high start-up costs and money is needed for investment, but after that the energy is free.
"I can see how the idea of a subsidy for renewables doesn't sit well with some, but you ask most people down here (in Cornwall) about wind turbines and it is not high on their agenda of things to worry about, unlike the shortage of affordable housing."
The Westcountry has long been seen as a hotbed for renewable energy development, with 372 wind turbines already constructed in Cornwall alone, with the Duchy also effectively ahead of its 2020 target for renewable energy.
Danny Mageean, from Cornwall Protect, said wind farms were only useful in creating jobs in the short term. He said: "It is one of the myths that they tend to use. They will create a number of jobs in the manufacturing stage but it is not a method of sustainable employment."
Tim Andrewes, the only Green Party representative on Cornwall Council, said part of the problem was Britain's relatively slow uptake on green energy. He said: "To be honest I think it would create more jobs if we got in to the whole renewable thing sooner in the UK. They are right to say that they are creating jobs but they are being created in Denmark or Germany but the big point is we have got to generate more clean electricity and the whole point of renewable energy is to achieve that. The Government support for wind turbines is to generate clean electricity not principally about jobs."
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: "Subsidies for wind have multiple benefits for the UK economy, supporting jobs is only one important factor. Support for onshore wind was reduced by 10% this year and we have challenged the offshore wind industry to significantly cut costs by 2020."