DECC wins Energy Bill battle

The long-awaited Energy Bill was approved by Parliament yesterday without any amendments to the government’s onshore wind plans. That means the DECC’s grace period criteria for wind farms due to […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

The long-awaited Energy Bill was approved by Parliament yesterday without any amendments to the government’s onshore wind plans.

That means the DECC’s grace period criteria for wind farms due to the early closure of the Renewables Obligation won’t be affected.

Opposition peers wanted to extend the grace period until 31st March 2017 for wind farms that had secured planning permission before 18th June 2015 and issued legal agreements by 18th September 2015.

Labour peer Lord Grantchester however withdrew the amendment that would have resulted in an extra 66.3MW of capacity from four wind farms on top of the government-backed grace period projects.

The withdrawal ended a month-long game of ping pong between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Lord Grantchester said: “It is deeply disappointing that the government is unable to agree an entirely fair, minor adjustment to the grace period concessions that have had to be woven into the Bill following the opportunistic inclusion of the decision on the early closure of the Renewables Obligation.

“This issue will not go away. It goes beyond the few cases in the amendment. It concerns the lack of inclusion and the ability of the wind industry to take part in the future bidding rounds for Contracts for Difference… We remain as determined as ever that we will return to this but we accept where we are now with the government—they are not listening and they will not concede. Indeed, it could well be the end of the parliamentary road. Reluctantly, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.”

Energy Minister Lord Bourne defended the Bill and added the importance of ensuring it “comes to a swift conclusion” has been discussed many times.

He went on: “The date of 18th June 2015 was set out as a clear definitive line for industry and the government has continued to maintain the importance of this as a clear cut-off date. As I have said previously, the prolonged debate on this issue is stopping the Bill proceeding to Royal Assent – Royal Assent which is so urgently needed so that we can implement the much-needed measures relating to the Oil and Gas Authority.”

A final vote on the amendment was defeated by 204 to 109 votes.

In a separate statement, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said the Energy Bill is a “vital part” of the government’s plan “to ensure our families and businesses have access to secure, clean, affordable energy supplies they can rely on, while keeping the bills down”.

She added: “By strengthening the Oil and Gas Authority and giving it powers to drive greater collaboration and productivity in the industry, this Bill shows that the broad shoulders of the UK are committed to helping our oil and gas industry attract investment, support jobs and remain competitive for the future.”

Renewable UK said pasing of the Energy Bill “opens up route to cheaper electricity for UK consumers”.

Chief Executive Hugh McNeal added: The government has said that in the future the UK’s electricity will be generated by gas, nuclear and renewables and not from coal. Onshore wind is now the cheapest of these options. With the pain of the Energy Bill finally behind us, we need to look forward and find sensible ways to take advantage of wind power to ensure consumers’ electricity bills are as low as possible.”