The United Kingdom was the first major economy to legislate for net zero carbon emissions and since 2000, the UK has decarbonised faster than any other G7 country. Onshore wind is a key part of the Government’s strategy for low-cost decarbonisation of the energy sector, and it will be integral to achieving net zero by 2050.
It is for this reason that I welcome the Government changes to the planning system in England so planning permission for onshore wind will depend on a project commanding local support and being able to satisfactorily address any impacts identified by the local community. These changes were consulted upon earlier this year.
Separately, the Government has said that it will seek views on developing local partnerships for supportive communities to enable those who would like to host new onshore wind infrastructure to benefit, for example through lower energy bills.
I appreciate there are a range of views on onshore wind. I firmly believe that local authorities working with communities, who know their areas best, are best placed to make long term decisions on onshore wind site. For clarity, the Government has been clear that strong environmental protections will remain in place, with valued landscapes such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Green Belt protected.
Protecting the beauty and local amenity of our countryside is something I consider of the utmost importance. At the same time, I fully appreciate the need to boost our national capacity for renewable energy.
For example, Rampion Offshore Wind Farm is now generating enough green energy to power the equivalent of around 350,000 UK homes, equal to almost half the homes in Sussex. They have also created a fund of £3.1 million to be administered by Sussex Community Foundation for projects which serve the wider community, with particular interest in the environment, ecology, climate change, energy and improved community facilities.
Sustained growth in the capacity of onshore wind over the next decade, alongside solar and offshore wind, is a key element in our strategy for the low-cost decarbonisation of the energy sector as it is one of the most cost-effective electricity generating technologies and already accounts for approximately quarter of installed renewable capacity in the UK.
The latest round of the Government's flagship renewables scheme, Contracts for Difference (CfD), has provided funding for 24 onshore wind projects, delivering almost 1.5GW of capacity. This builds on years of renewables growth under the Government. Just 7 per cent of the UK's electricity came from renewables in 2010, yet in the first quarter of this year it reached 48 per cent and this CfD auction will allow us to go further in powering more of Britain from Britain.
Furthermore, the Hydrogen Strategy made clear that Scotland has a key role to play in the development of a UK hydrogen economy, with the potential to produce industrial-scale quantities of hydrogen from offshore and onshore wind resources, wave and tidal power, as well as with Carbon Capture Usage and Storage.
I will continue to monitor any future developments closely.