There is a wind of change facing windfarms which goes to the heart of a fundamental question. Can they pay for themselves?
Promises made before elections are sometimes quietly forgotten once the votes are in the bag, but at Prime Minister’s Questions David Cameron made it clear to Montgomeryshire MP Glyn Davies that the new administration is sticking to the pledge to end future subsidies for onshore windfarms.
So we now have a proverbial level playing field in which windfarms are not given special favours.
The issue is potent in Mid Wales. There are plans for five windfarms in Powys. There are plans for pylons across Mid Wales and North Shropshire to carry the power from windfarms.
“It is time to give local people the decisive say,” declared Mr Cameron.
Judging by the scale of the protests and opposition in Mid Wales, giving the locals the right of veto – if that is what Mr Cameron is saying in effect – means that the windfarm honeymoon is well and truly over. Getting permission for any new windfarm is going to be difficult, but maybe not impossible if those behind the schemes work with the local population, listen to them, and try to get them onside.
The cheers from the Welsh hills will be heard all the way to Westminster.
A shift is under way in which the emphasis is increasingly on solar power, a renewable energy source which does not appear to generate quite so much heat – in debating terms – as wind power. And maybe in future there will be yet another source of renewable energy which becomes fashionable and is talked up.
We are feeling our way in new territories, at the edge of technological frontiers in which there are going to be winners and losers as we explore new sources of energy and balance their pros and cons.
The current generation is not going to run out of energy. The oil is not going to run out tomorrow. The gas can still be tapped.
The knowledge that these resources are finite puts a responsibility on all our shoulders to search for alternatives which will supplement, replace, or at least help eke out the fossil fuels on which we still overwhelmingly depend.
There is unlikely to be a single answer. There will be a range of potential answers and the challenge is to choose those which best suit.Subscribe to our Newsletter