Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, admits that Tory plans to scrap
subsidies for onshore wind are not a ‘red line’ for future Coalition
By Emily Gosden, Energy Editor
The Liberal Democrats could support Conservative plans to end onshore wind
farm subsidies, Nick Clegg has suggested, in a concession that will anger
many of the party’s environmentalist supporters.
Mr Clegg on Sunday made “leading the fight on climate change” one of the
party’s “red lines” for any potential coalition agreement after the general
Asked whether he could nevertheless go into a government that was ending
onshore wind subsidies, a key Conservative pledge, he said: “There are
other green technologies and our whole energy strategy doesn’t just rely on
He said it would be “a great shame to remove one green technology for
arbitrary ideological reasons” but added: “I don’t think the whole
environmental agenda depends on one green technology.”
The concession could smooth the way for a second coalition with the
Conservatives. Energy and the environment has been a key battleground over
the last five years, in particular over onshore wind.
The Lib Dems have until now been vocal critics of Conservative plans to end
subsidies for new onshore wind farms.
Onshore wind farms currently receive subsidies at roughly twice the market
price of power so ending subsidies would be tantamount to a ban.
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, has said the plan would push up
energy bills and undermine jobs and investment.
Mr Clegg said on Sunday: “For five years we have fought sceptical Tories to
ensure we were the greenest Government ever.”
Despite this the Lib Dems indicated they could compromise on many of their
flagship manifesto proposals for green energy – such as plans to
decarbonise the power sector by 2030 – by failing to make them “red lines”.
Mr Clegg made clear that while he could potentially live with the
Conservatives’ proposals to end onshore wind subsidies, he did not
understand or support the rationale for the plan.
He said he was “perplexed” by the “hard line right wing” of the
Conservative party for whom “Europe, single mothers,welfare cheats and
onshore wind farms have all assumed some dastardly status”.
“We take a much more pragmatic approach to it. You shouldn’t be imposing
onshore wind farms on communities that really don’t want them, but equally
given we are a very windy island we shouldn’t be closing off the
opportunity to create green jobs and invest in sustainable energy
generation at reasonable cost,” he said.
Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems supported “spreading our bets” by backing a mix
of green technologies.
He added: “As the onshore wind industry matures, of course the cost
declines… and the need for public subsidy declines as well. I’m a
liberal, I don’t want to subsidise any industry or any technology a penny
or a pound more than is necessary. I just don’t understand this belief that
somehow all wind energy is bad. It is an absurdly draconian approach.”
It came after David Cameron and Nick Clegg appeared to begin public
negotiations over the terms of a future Coalition after the Liberal
Democrat leader suggested he is open to an EU referendum.
During an appearance on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Clegg was asked
eight times whether he would accept a referendum in 2017 as the price of a
Coalition with the Conservatives.
He repeatedly refused to do so, instead pointing to his party’s own “red
lines” including a public sector pay rise, raising the personal allowance
to £12,500, investing £8billion a year in the NHS, and guaranteeing