It was sad to read that the UK government has refused to give permission for four new windfarms in central Wales, and done all it could to prevent the fifth from progressing. The condensed version of the story is here, and the full details of the decisions are available by following the links on this page.
The BBC report was completely wrong to say that the combined schemes would have resulted in about 800 turbines. This was a wild overstatement. In fact the combined total for the four refused schemes is only 126 turbines (17 at Llanbadarn Fynydd, 29 at Llaithddu, 30 at Llanbrynmair, and 50 at Carnedd Wen) and the approved fifth project will replace the 102 existing turbines at Llandinam with 34 larger and more efficient ones). If all five windfarms had been approved it would have resulted in 160 new turbines, a net gain of only 58 turbines). Although Tory MP Glyn Davies manages to inflate this to "several hundred additional turbines". Objectivity and any sense of proportion have been noticeably absent in the protests against these windfarms.
Of course it is, as David Clubb said, a baffling ideological decision that doesn't make any sense. But what else would we expect from Conservatives in Westminster who have shown over the last few months that they have no real inclination to meet our renewable energy targets ... in fact going so far as to tell blatant lies about them, as I reported here only a few weeks ago.
Of course the only reason why the UK Government at Westminster has been able to make this decision is because of the absurd limits set on our ability to determine our own energy planning policies in Wales. All five windfarms have capacities of greater than the current 50MW limit. Ironically, even the Tories have already agreed that this limit should be increased to 350MW, which would mean that the Welsh Government rather than the UK Government would make the final decision on projects like these. Perhaps this is one reason why the urgent delivery of any new powers has been put on the back burner.
I would be the last person to say that all windfarm projects should be approved. I am certainly in favour of windfarms, but each individual project needs to be determined on its own merits. However it is obvious to me that the UK Government has made a blanket decision on ideological grounds. No-one in their right mind could have refused the Llandinam repowering project, because it means a significant reduction in the number of turbines on that site; but to refuse all four of the new projects can only be interpreted as a political decision. It should be noted that each of them is within the areas designated in TAN 8 as suitable for windfarm development, so they should only have been refused permission if there were specific local reasons for it. From the Welsh Government's reaction, it seems clear that they would have made different decisions:
However, the Welsh government said the area would now "miss out" on investment, and jobs, while Wales had been "denied the opportunity to further reduce our carbon emissions by a decision made in Westminster".
"Today's decision is not only very disappointing and concerning but once again reinforces the importance of the Welsh government having control of energy consents for projects in our country," a spokesman said.
It would be nice to think that this sense of disappointment and concern would be shared by other parties such as the LibDems and Plaid Cymru. It is doubly outrageous. First, decisions which all political parties agree should be made in Wales have instead been made for us by a government in Westminster which we didn't vote for; and second, we in Wales do not share the UK government's ideological opposition to either windfarms or renewable power in general.
Not so long ago, Plaid made the announcement that they wanted all Wales' electricity needs to be generated from renewable sources by 2030. Although they didn't know (or wouldn't tell us) how they'd do it, it is hard to imagine how this could be achieved without, at least in part, relying on onshore wind projects such as the four that have just been refused. But I'm not sure that we'd ever get as straight an answer about these four new windfarms from anyone in Plaid as Welsh Labour have just made.
Update - 16:20, 8 September 2015
The BBC have just reported more reaction from the Welsh Government to these decisions.
The rejection of plans to build wind farms in mid Wales is "short sighted" and "hugely disappointing", the Welsh government's environment minister says. Carl Sargeant said communities in Powys would lose millions of pounds and an opportunity to create jobs, claiming energy supply would be put at risk.
Mr Sargeant told BBC Wales: "We recognise that there's a great opportunity for renewable energy in Wales, but they [the UK government] are doing everything they can to stop that, in planning terms and also some of their subsidy schemes.
"In Wales we are pro-wind power and renewable energy - in the UK government and, under the Conservatives, [they are] pro-fracking, which we are certainly not."
It's very encouraging to see this response. If anyone doubts that people in Wales are in fact pro-wind power, I'd point them to a couple of surveys of public opinion which show 64% of Welsh people are generally in favour of large scale wind projects in their local council area: one from 2013 and a second from 2014.
In contrast, David Cameron said in December last year that the public is "basically fed up" with onshore wind farms. "Enough is enough and I am very clear about that," he said. Such a major discrepancy between the Welsh public and the Tories in Westminster is a clear indication that what is happening is politically motivated.