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U.K. Liberals Join Industry Pressing Conservatives on Wind

Liberal Democrats joined officials from the renewable energy industry pressing Prime Minister David Cameron’s government to rein in a minister who called for a moratorium on new wind turbine installations.

Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal party that’s the junior partner in Cameron’s coalition government, said he’d hold Conservatives to their promise to be the “greenest ever” administration. RenewableUK Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith said Cameron had to “get a grip” on his policy toward wind.

The comments reflect a widening rift within the coalition about the pace of boosting renewables as part of the U.K. energy supply. John Hayes, a junior minister in the energy department, told Channel 4 news yesterday that enough turbines have already been erected and that should be the “end of story.” The Energy Department controlled by liberal Ed Davey says there’s been no change in the policy to encourage wind.

“This is a deliberate attempt to recklessly re-write coalition policy just before the most significant government intervention in the energy markets for a generation,” Smith said in a statement today.

The industry group released a statement urging Cameron to confirm the U.K.’s commitment to a stable energy policy or risk investment and jobs with the “policy brinkmanship.”

Hughes issued a statement after the Guardian reported that Conservative lawmaker Chris Heaton-Harris offered to support an anti-wind farm campaigner to stand as an independent candidate against his own party in a special election in Corby, Northamptonshire.

‘Hell Bent’

“Some Conservatives are clearly so hell bent on disrupting the coalition’s green agenda that they’re prepared to stab their own candidates in the back to do it,” Hughes said.

Hayes’ remark was his second public outburst about onshore wind in a month and is unsettling the developers and investors that Britain has been trying to lure. Hayes along with almost half of the lawmakers in Cameron’s party are concerned the turbines are a blight on the landscape.

Cameron has stayed out of the argument, saying on Oct. 31 that the nation must rethink energy policy once targets for renewables are met. “That’s what I am saying too,” Hayes told Channel 4 yesterday. Britain gets about 9.6 percent of its electricity from renewables now and needs to boost that to 30 percent by 2020 to meet its goals.

Heaton-Harris, who in January got more than Conservative 100 members of Parliament to sign a letter to Cameron calling for bigger cuts to onshore wind subsidies, posted a statement saying quotes attributed to him the Guardian report ranged from factually correct to “me bragging about things beyond my control.” He repeated that his aim is to prevent new onshore turbines being built across the country.

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