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11:00 - 12 November 2004

A massive 22-turbine windfarm planned for North Devon would deal a devastating blow to the region's multi-million pound tourism economy, it was claimed last night. The warning was made by North Devon MP Nick Harvey, at a meeting in Braunton considering a proposal to build a 60 megawatt windfarm, comprising turbines 360ft high on land between Braunton and Ilfracombe.

Mr Harvey told last night's meeting of Braunton Parish Council's planning committee that tourism was the biggest sector of the North Devon economy, worth 450 million a year.

"Even if tourism was hit by as little as three per cent, because of these turbines that would take 13 million out of the North Devon economy. The income the turbines create for the landowners will not be anywhere near that," he said.

Mr Harvey pointed out that as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was not only the Government department promoting wind energy, and also determining such proposals as Devon Wind Power's planned development at Fullabrook, there was no point in going to the DTI and telling the department that wind energy was fundamentally wrong.

"It is no good going to the DTI saying they have got it fundamentally wrong. There is big money at stake and that message will be like banging your head against a brick wall," he said.

Mr Harvey suggested that the debate over the windfarm plan ought to examine whether a particular site was suitable for such development and also what its impact would be on the economy.

"I doubt that there will be anywhere that can so readily demonstrate such a reliance on tourism as North Devon can," he said. "Visitors come to North Devon for peace, tranquility and the beauty of the area. There will be a huge economic cost if these wind turbines are built."

Last night's meeting voted unanimously to oppose the turbines on a range of grounds including environmental impact. Thirteen of the 22 turbines are in the parish of Braunton, with the remainder are in Marwood.

Councillors temporarily suspended standing orders to allow members of the public to contribute their views. All those who spoke were opposed to the plan and many questioned the Government's headlong support for wind power over other renewables, including marine turbines.

Peter Kingdon, of the North Devon-based Campaign Against Wind Turbines, said that four applications had been made for windfarms in the area and all had been turned down.

"For nearly 15 years, our community has been destabilised under the constant threat of windfarms. They seem to have the right to come back time after time to ask for planning permission. It defies our democratic rights," he said.

Other people voiced fears over the huge environmental impact of the construction process for the windfarm.


11:00 - 12 November 2004

The WMN asked for a statement from all the members of the BWEA who also sit on the Renewables Advisory Board.

We received the following replies:


"During my career I have built the world's largest straw-fired power station, the world's first fluidised bed poultry litter-fired power station, the world's first tyre pyrolysis project as well as undertaking the largest private placement in renewable energy with venture capitalists in 1998.

"I therefore sit on the Renewables Advisory Board because I am one of the few people worldwide to have developed, built and funded most renewable energy technologies and I also have unique experience in biomass.

"I am deeply concerned that you should be trying to remove the ability of Government to draw on commercial expertise and to potentially block practical measures which ensure that renewable energy is deployed. This appears to be taking place against an anti-windfarm stance on your part.

"I am a known promoter of technologies other than wind and I share your concerns that other renewable energy technologies need to be deployed as part of an overall solution to our targets. The focus on wind is nothing to do with the membership of the board but is a recognition of the fact that it is cheap and proven. In a market where all technologies get the same price, the cheap and proven technologies will always win.

"If the Western Morning News wants to genuinely promote a balanced portfolio of renewable energy technologies, I would be pleased to lend my support to any campaign aimed at both the public and government. This can only be achieved by identifying the specific funding needs of individual technologies and to then ensure that the money is made available. More importantly, the deployment of any diverse mix needs to public and media support.

"In view of the fact that I am well known as a supporter of emerging technologies and that my role on RAB is to help with their deployment, you will be misrepresenting the situation if you claim that membership of the BWEA in my case makes me biased for wind technology."


"I retired from the post of manager director at npower renewables in May, although I retain some advisory links with the company. As my title implied, I was responsible for all renewables and under my leadership the company invested in a wide range of renewable technologies eg hydro, onshore wind, offshore wind, biomass, as well as activities promoting marine technologies. Npower renewables continues to invest in these areas under the new managing director. I believe you will find that most of the BWEA members you mention in your note have a direct interest in more than one renewable technology."


A spokesman said: "His (David Williams') appointment to the Renewables Advisory Board is a personal appointment recognising his long experience and tenure in the industry and was made prior to the establishment of Cambrian Caledonian. It would therefore not be appropriate for me to make comment about your further questions."


"If you were the DTI and you wanted to assemble a team of experts to advise you on how to meet renewables targets, to identify barriers and opportunities, would you not recruit experts with actual experience of the issues, and would you not recruit them from the fields that had most relevance?"


"The board provides advice to government on a wide range of renewables issues. It's perfectly understandable that experts on renewables are drawn largely from the renewables industry. Nor is it surprising that the board includes representatives from the wind industry.

"Wind is the most economically viable form of renewable generation at this time, and is expected to provide the bulk of our ten per cent renewables target by 2010.

"The board also contains representatives from other key sectors of the industry, including wave, tidal, solar, hydro and biomass, and these are likely to play an increasingly important part of our energy mix.

"As with all public bodies, the Board is subject to the Nolan procedures and the Cabinet Office code. An open process inviting applications was undertaken in autumn 2002 and was publicised through the DTI website. Individual companies and trade associations were notified of the advertisement. The application process and method of advertisement was fully in accordance with Cabinet Office guidelines.

"The 18 individuals suggested for membership represent those candidates that the selection panel felt were necessary for the Board to act effectively given the broad range of interests in the renewables industry. Individuals were considered on their experience and skills not on the organisation they represent. All the major technology sectors are represented and the candidates have strong backgrounds in manufacturing, services, R &D and finance."

TOMORROW: Developer speaks up for 'green' power of wind


11:00 - 12 November 2004

A plea for planning permission to be withdrawn from a wind turbine in Devon will be made to Torridge planners next week. The proposed turbine at Swingdon, Ashwater, near Holsworthy, was granted planning permission at appeal in 1994. It was renewed in 1998 and varied to increase the height to 226ft to the blade tip in 1999.

On Monday, Torridge District Council's planning committee will consider a formal application for the permission to be renewed. But Ashwater Parish Council, which has always opposed windfarm development in the area, is calling on the district council to refuse to renew the permission.

The parish council said that since the original application and the subsequent renewals, tourist businesses had developed in the Ashwater area.

"Many of the residents of the parish have invested heavily in tourism-based projects, many as a direct result of the ravages of BSE and foot and mouth," the council told Torridge planners.

The council chairman Malcolm Timney said that if the district council did not refuse to renew the permission then there were at least three conditions that should be imposed.

These were that the height of the turbine should not be increased from the existing permission, strict noise conditions should be imposed and a bond should be paid to cover the cost of removal and reinstatement when the turbine ceases to operate.


11:00 - 12 November 2004

Eleven of the 18 "appointed" members of the agency that advises the Government on the "green" energy needed to combat global warming, work for private companies with heavy financial interests in wind technology, the WMN has learned.

Their prominent role on the Renewables Advisory Board is revealed amid mounting controversy over the Government's policy on wind power as the primary source of renewable energy.

Ten of those eleven members have prominent positions in companies that are listed as members of the British Wind Energy Association, the trade organisation for the onshore and offshore wind power industry.

The advisory board, which describes itself as "independent", has a pivotal role in guiding Government policies on tackling climate change and promoting renewables. Yet the companies for which the board members work are investing millions of pounds in wind development.

One of the smallest, Ecotricity, this year put 7 million into wind power, while one of the largest, Scottish and Southern, plans a total investment of about 850 million on projects in the Highlands.

Three of the board members are leading figures in companies - NEG Micon, Cambrian and Ecotricity - which make wind turbines.

Another three are also board members of the British Wind Energy Association, Alan Moore (chairman), Rob Hastings, and Chris Morris.

The BWEA describes itself as "the trade and professional body for the UK wind industry". Its promotional material says: "We act as a central point for information for our membership and as a lobbying group to promote wind energy to government. We research and find solutions to current issues and generally act as the forum for the UK wind industry."

At the same time the Renewables Advisory Board says it is "an independent non-departmental public body sponsored by DTI, which provides advice to Government on a wide range of renewable energy issues on request and may also offer other such advice to the Government, as it considers appropriate."

Mr Moore is also the managing director of npower, which is behind the plan for three turbines at Goveton in the South Hams in Devon.

The WMN's findings were last night described as evidence of a bias that could jeopardise the UK's strategy on global warming.

Noel Edmonds, chairman of the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), described the situation as "scandalous" and "potentially catastrophic for all of us". The Devon-based businessman and broadcaster condemned the composition of the board as "morally, commercially and ethically unacceptable."

He said: "There appears to be a complete lack of independence and impartiality. I believe the wind industry is being favoured to the exclusion of other forms of renewable technology. Onshore wind power is about the commercial development of the countryside for commercial gain."

His comments were echoed by the South West MEP Dr Caroline Jackson, who is a member of the European Parliament's Environment Committee.

She said: "It's a scandalous situation. If this was happening in a European context people would be screaming blue murder and there would be a case to take to the European ombudsman. These companies are being subsidised by the Government at one end, and supposedly giving independent advice at the other. They can't lose."

The companies with representatives on the advisory board have openly declared their commitment to wind power.

In its promotional material, npower says: "National Wind Power is now called npower renewables and remains committed to developing and promoting wind energy as a major renewable energy source for a sustainable future."

Another company NEG MICON states: "With almost 20 years of experience in the business, we have been involved in the development of wind power technology from the very start, and have, therefore, been instrumental in elevating the business to the advanced level it occupies today. More than 7,400 of the company's wind turbines are today in operation around the globe, responsible for approximately 23.4 per cent of the total wind power production capacity."

Shell Wind Energy says: "As wind energy becomes increasingly competitive with conventional power sources, we aim to be one of the industry's leading players and a force for progress in this rapidly developing sector."

Wind Prospect's commercial director, Chris Morris, states his role in the company as "to help steer the company to continued growth underpinned by a secure financial base". The company claims to have managed the construction of 60 per cent of the windfarms commissioned in the UK in 2002.

Local communities repeatedly complain that their views are over-ruled by a planning process that the Government has skewed in favour of wind development.

But at least one member of the advisory board is on record as complaining that the planning process is too restrictive.

Dale Vince, the founder of Ecotricity, recently complained: "You can't be in wind without having problems with planning. Onshore schemes are in the hands of local councillors, who don't read the details of applications, don't understand Government policies and cave in to local pressure groups."

The advisory board, which was set up in November 2002 is chaired by Mike O'Brien, the Minister for Energy and Construction at the DTI. It is split into two between 11 "ex officio" members, including the chairman, drawn from Government departments and other sectors. The "appointed" members are selected from what the DTI insists are "all sectors" of the renewables industry.


11:00 - 12 November 2004
Robert Hastings, vice-president of Shell Wind Energy Ltd. (BWEA member) Bob Leicester, sales manager of NEG Micon. (not listed as BWEA member)

Alan Moore, former managing director of National Wind Power (BWEA member), and chairman of the British Wind Energy Association

Dr Chris Morris, commercial director of Wind Prospect. (BWEA member)

Dr Brian Smith, head of projects of Scottish and Southern Energy plc. (BWEA member)

Dale Vince, managing director of Ecotricity Group (BWEA member)

David Williams, of Cambrian Caledonian. (BWEA member)

Doug Coleman, managing director of United Utilities Green Energy. (BWEA member)

Gearoid Lane, head of electricity supplies of Centrica Energy. (BWEA member)

Jason Scagell, head of E.ON UK Renewables. (BWEA member)

David James Williams, managing director of Eco2 Ltd (BWEA member)


Dr Tariq Ali, research director, Imperial College

Tom Delay, of the Carbon Trust

Dr Jeremy Leggett, of Solar Century

Ray Noble, Government liaison officer, BP Solar

Simon Roberts, Centre for Sustainable Energy

David Still, DTI renewables advisor

Dr Patricia Thornley