A TORY Minister has been accused of “playing politics with thousands of jobs” after he appeared to sound the death knell for one of the key planks of the Government’s energy policy which could pave the way for massive investment in Yorkshire.
A furious row erupted between opponents and supporters of wind turbines after John Hayes broke ranks to seemingly announce an end to further expansion of onshore wind farms, declaring “enough was enough” and that developments could no longer be “imposed on communities”.
The Government insisted it was not closing the door on new wind farms, with Mr Hayes’s boss Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey saying there had been “no change” in policy.
But there are concerns the mixed messages are damaging investor confidence in the Humber, which aims to transform itself into a global centre for green energy industries, with plans including German manufacturing giant Siemens investing in a £210m turbine factory in Hull.
The deal has yet to be signed off, however, with Siemens among those investors raising concern over Government support.
Sam Pick, director of the Renewables Network, which represents 200 renewable energy companies along the Humber, said the comments “were playing politics with thousands of jobs in the region”.
He added: “They were so poorly expressed that they came across as an attack on the entire industry, rather than the specific target of onshore wind. The problem we have, certainly with this Government, is a total lack of clarity, which creates a loss of momentum. Siemens needs clarity from the Government –that’s really what is slowing things down.”
Hull Council leader Steve Brady said: “They say we can be world leaders but it seems to me we are lagging behind because the Government can’t or won’t fix their policy. It would be better if Ministers kept their mouths shut, because it is sending out mixed messages which make investors nervous.”
Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint said the Government appeared “clueless”, adding: “With energy bills skyrocketing, what hard-pressed people urgently want is action but instead we have a shambles of a Tory-led Government which can’t even agree with itself.”
Institution of Engineering and Technology policy director Dr Tony Whitehead said: “The UK has the world’s largest offshore wind industry and there is huge potential in terms of investment and future jobs.
“Several international companies planning investments in the UK recently wrote to the Energy Secretary expressing concern over the emergence of political risk in the UK which has traditionally been regarded as having a low risk for energy investment.
“Inconsistent comments from different quarters of the Government could be very damaging and affect confidence in the market, just at the time investment decisions are about to be made, potentially driving investment and jobs overseas.”
Opponents of wind farms, including communities in East Yorkshire, one of the country’s prime locations for onshore wind, welcomed Mr Hayes’s intervention and renewed calls for a moratorium on future developments.
Campaigner David Hinde said: “Here we have an Energy Minster who has endorsed everything local groups and hundreds of local residents have been saying.”
Comment: Page 12; Call over wind farm subsidies: Page 13.