UK Energy Bill kills oil boiler ban but approves onshore wind

Returning to the House of Commons for debate this week, the future of Britain’s power and fuel supply hangs in the balance as backbench Tory MPs and opposition members table major amendments.

silhouette of wind mill during golden hour

Tuesday 5th September saw the proposed Bill undergo what is likely to be the final set of major votes on how UK energy will change and adapt in the coming years. Passing with 280 votes in favour and just 19 against, nevertheless the current iteration could not feel more different to the Government’s initial proposal, for better and worse.

One of which impacts onshore wind. Sir Alok Sharma, COP26 Glasgow climate talks president, has led a group of MPs in piling pressure on the Government to remove what many consider to be a de-facto ban on onshore wind farms. Since existing rules were introduced in 2015 under David Cameron’s administration, the number of new turbines granted planning permission has fallen by 96%, with just 16 constructed between 2016 and 2020. 

While widely considered an essential part of the energy mix, public sentiment towards onshore wind projects has historically been mixed, with many voicing objections. Conservative politicians have been among the most prominent objectors to such developments in a bid to protect seats in rural constituencies where potentially useful wind farm sites are found. Recent years have seen this debate rise up the agenda amid more wider aims of transition to clean energy, and this latest decision seems unlikely to put an end to those arguments. 

‘These rule changes fall far short of what’s needed to fully unleash the UK’s enormous potential for cheap, clean and popular onshore wind power,’ said Magnus Gallie, planning specialist at Friends of the Earth. ‘It’s ridiculous that onshore wind developments still face more planning barriers – both before and after applications are submitted – than fossil fuel energy projects. With the country in the midst of both a climate and cost-of-living crisis, ministers should be championing homegrown onshore wind, enabling us all to reap the benefits of lower energy bills and cuts to emissions.’

Elsewhere, calls for government support in developing sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) have also been taken on board, with an amendment committing to a revenue certainty mechanism to help research associated technologies. While still in their infancy, it is widely understood that new types of low emission fuel will be vital to sustain access to air travel, although some have questioned why this has been added to a Bill focused on renewables and energy security. 

Hydrogen also stands to gain, with a levy originally proposed for energy suppliers set to be moved onto gas shippers, protecting customers from absorbing the impact through bills. However, many still believe that ultimately costs will be passed to consumers. And a suggested ban the sale of new oil boilers by 2026 looks unlikely to survive, with with former-Environment Secretary George Eustice describing the idea as a ‘rural ULEZ’. 

More on energy: 

NIMBYism is blocking progress in the UK energy sector

Self-sufficient portable power stations set for leading electronics fair

Carbon-capturing lithium batteries may soon become reality

North Sea energy giant cancels projects over UK’s ‘unfavourable fiscal regime’

Image:  Jason Blackeye


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