October 15, 2006

Impact of industrial wind on rural economy

From "UK Energy Policy: The Small Business Perspective & the Impact on the Rural Economy," researched and written by Candida Whitmill for, and on behalf of, the Small Business Council, February 2006 (revised June 2006) [available at wind-watch.org]:

[p. 1, Foreword]  The Small Business Council is a non-departmental public body established in May 2000 to advise the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Chief Executive of the Small Business Service on the needs of existing and potential small businesses in order to help them succeed and prosper. Working with Ministers and Senior Policy makers, the Council advises and reports on the effects on small businesses of current and potential policies.

[p. 2, Executive Summary]  This study focuses attention on one particular area of potential impact in the United Kingdom, the impact on tourism, an area dominated by small businesses and of pivotal importance to the rural economy as a whole. Twenty-five percent of all registered businesses are in rural areas.

The rural visitor economy is worth £14 billion in England alone and supports up to 800,000 jobs. Research shows that for an average 75% of visitors, the quality of the landscape and countryside is the most important factor in choosing a destination. Between 47% and 75% of visitors felt that wind turbines damage the landscape quality. In North Devon turbines would deter 11% of visitors, at a cost of £29 million and the loss of 800 jobs. Approximately 7% of visitors would not return to Cumbria, which would result in a loss of £70 million and 1,753 jobs. In the South West, just a 5% overall reduction in visitor numbers would lose the region £400 million and 15,000 jobs. Because of the multiplier effect, a reduction of visitors can have farreaching consequences for the overall regional economy, a fact richly illustrated during the Foot and Mouth crisis. The evidence shows that in some areas, 49% of all sectors of rural businesses experienced a negative impact. [Full analysis, pp. 10-18]

We argue that the current trend towards high levels of wind energy development onshore presents an unacceptable threat to rural businesses and runs counter to almost all other aspects of Government policy relating to the rural economy. This has important implications when assessing the overall cost-benefit equation of the current renewable energy policy.

[p. 20]  Sustainable development, as defined by the Rural Strategy, is characterised by "integrating and balancing environmental, social and economic considerations at every stage." 41 Recognising its potentially negative impact on the environment, UK tourism has long embraced the ethos of sustainability. Today UK tourism is striving to be a role model for sustainable practices. Businesses are investing in energy efficiency, recycling and local purchasing. Many are gaining international accreditation through sustainable programmes such as the Green Business Tourism Scheme. Local partnerships are operating visitor payback schemes that include visitors as stakeholders in reinvesting back into the conservation of the environment they enjoy. It is in the industry's interest to maintain and improve the environment and to contribute to the economic and social stability of local communities.

This symbiosis represents the greatest prospect of achieving the Rural Strategy 2004 goals and the Government's sustainability agenda. In contrast, the current onshore wind policy is at odds with the concept of sustainability. For the majority of onshore wind developments, the environmental costs are local and the benefits are invariably taken or delivered outside the region. In the most striking cases, a large-scale wind farm may be entirely financed by overseas investors, using imported equipment and a team of specialist contractors to oversee the installation. Once operating no one is employed on the site and the income and profits from the Renewables Obligation scheme are repatriated back to the investor country.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms