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Scottish jobs warning after UK pulls wind farm subsidy

Contractors in Scotland have warned of “serious impact” on jobs after the UK government confirmed it would end public subsidies for new onshore wind farms from next year.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) last week said it would close the Renewables Obligation scheme to new onshore wind farms from April 2016.

Power generating companies were previously entitled to 0.9 Renewable Obligation Certificates for every megawatt hour of energy they produce from onshore wind before April 2017.

The subsidy scheme, due to continue for a further 20 years from that point, creates a market for the certificates by requiring energy suppliers to collect them to meet renewables targets.

But now onshore wind farms that are not in operation by April 2016 will miss out on the certificates. Decc said it was minded to offer an extra year to projects that had planning consent, a grid connection offer and acceptance, and evidence of land rights in place before the announcement was made.

But the Scottish branch of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) warned the move would still hit civil engineering businesses and jobs.

Most of the UK pipeline of onshore wind farms - about 70% - is in Scotland.

“This is extremely bad news for Scottish communities and Scotland’s civil engineering sector, which have been working to an orderly programme of renewables projects, based on a well established subsidy schedule,” said Ceca Scotland chief executive Alan Watt.

“Notwithstanding the effects on renewable targets, we agree wholeheartedly with the Scottish government that this early withdrawal of support will have a serious impact on Scottish businesses and jobs, particularly in remote areas where alternative employment is hard to come by, and we call upon the UK government to reverse this decision and reinstate the original timetable.”

Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said the announcement would have a disproportionate impact on Scotland.

“This announcement goes further than what had been previously indicated. It is not the scrapping of a ‘new’ subsidy that was promised but a reduction of an existing regime - and one under which companies and communities have already planned investment,” he said.

But UK energy secretary Amber Rudd said: “We are committed to cutting our carbon emissions by fostering enterprise, competition, opportunity and growth.

“ We want to help technologies stand on their own two feet, not encourage a reliance on public subsidies.

“So we are driving forward our commitment to end new onshore wind subsidies and give local communities the final say over any new windfarms. Onshore wind is an important part of our energy mix and we now have enough subsidised projects in the pipeline to meet our renewable energy commitments.”

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