Homes near nuclear plants and onshore wind farms could see bills cut

Families living near new nuclear plants and onshore wind farms could get lower bills to ease planning rows, minister suggests – as PM prepares to unveil crucial energy strategy amid Russia standoff

  • Boris Johnson is due to unveil his new energy strategy for the UK this week
  • Government drawing up options to lower bills for households near wind turbines 
  • Kwasi Kwarteng and Michael Gove appear to have overcome Cabinet concerns 

Families living near nuclear power plants and onshore wind farms could get lower bills as part of the UK’s new energy strategy.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi backed a discount as he signalled that planning rules will be loosened in the blueprint being unveiled by Boris Johnson this week.

However, he stressed that communities will still need to agree to hosting nuclear and onshore wind farms – suggesting that the government will use incentives rather than compulsion.  

The PM pledged a new energy strategy amid the chaos from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, warning that the West must ‘wean itself’ from Moscow’s gas and oil supplies.

He has insisted that renewables, smaller nuclear plants, and exploiting the UK’s own oil and gas reserves in the North Sea will all play key roles.

The strategy has been repeatedly delayed, but Downing Street has said it will be released by the end of the month. 

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi backed a discount as he signalled that planning rules will be loosened in the blueprint being unveiled by Boris Johnson this week

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Moray Offshore Windfarm East off Aberdeenshire last year

This UK map compiled by the Renewable Energy Hub shows the location of onshore wind farms (red dots, bigger dot indicates higher capacity) and offshore wind farms (in dark blue) 

This graphic from EDF shows a comparison between onshore and offshore wind farms

Currently in England onshore wind farms must have virtually unanimous backing from locals in order to get the go-ahead – although the hurdles are much lower in other parts of the UK. 

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is adamant more onshore turbines are needed to guarantee energy supplies in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

However, there has been concern about the move in Cabinet because it could be deeply unpopular in Tory heartlands.

Mr Zahawi told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: ‘I would say that if we are going to make sure that we carry the will of local people, whether it’s onshore wind or nuclear, we have to learn from how it’s done well in other countries. The way you do that is to make sure the local community has a real say.

‘But also we’ve seen great examples of other people where if they build a nuclear power station, within a certain radius of that power station they get free power.

‘So it’s right to look at innovation to make sure we wean ourselves off hydrocarbons, we have to do that, we have to do that well, part of that is making sure we look after the will of the local people.’

He insisted there ‘isn’t a row’ around the Cabinet table about onshore wind.

MailOnline understands that the government is ‘looking at different ways of ensuring communities can directly benefit’ if planning is loosened.

Michael Gove – who responsible for the planning system in England – is believed to be supportive of the change.

A Whitehall source said: ‘We need to generate more cheap, clean power in the UK to become energy independent. 

‘Wind power is cheaper than gas, so we need more wind power.’ 

But the issue is likely to be controversial with Tory rank and file, many of whom do not want to see the ability of local residents to object to wind farms rescinded.

Europe’s biggest onshore wind farm, Whitelee Windfarm on the outskirts of Glasgow, in 2019

Kwasi Kwarteng (left) has been drawing up options for incentivising communities to accept onshore wind turbines. Michael Gove (right) is thought to support easing planning rules 

Mr Zahawi was among 101 Tory MPs and eight Cabinet ministers – including Priti Patel, Nadine Dorries, and Jacob Rees-Mogg – who signed a Tory letter to former prime minister David Cameron in 2012, calling on the Government to withdraw subsidies for the farms and ensure the planning system ‘properly takes into account the views of local people’.

However, Mr Kwarteng argues that Britons have since changed their minds on windfarms.

Tory MP Bob Blackman said last week: ‘It would be a total disaster. It’s extremely unpopular, they’re ugly, and they don’t necessarily produce enough energy. 

‘I do think if we start getting into energy supply, it should be fracking, not onshore wind.’

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