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Defra has recently announced that from January 2015, farmers will lose their right to claim subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy for fields used for solar panels. Subsidies are being withdrawn under new plans to ensure agricultural land is dedicated to growing crops and food.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss, has said
‘English farmland is some of the best in the world and I want to see it dedicated to growing quality food and crops. I do not want to see its productive potential wasted and its appearance blighted by solar farms. Farming is what our farms are for and it is what keeps our landscape beautiful.’
These announcements come at a time, where renewable energy support is being amended and backing for large scale solar farms is shifting from the renewables obligation to the contracts for difference scheme, leaving some concerned about the impacts this will have on the development of solar energy projects.
Some commentators and farmers are claiming that this announcement is a knee jerk reaction to some poorly-sited solar farms. Many farmers using fields for solar panels, and currently in receipt of the subsidies, are not experiencing any loss of production at these farms, as their livestock continue to graze in the fields, as well as using the panels for shelter from the weather.
It is clear that it’s government policy to try to curb the growth of rural solar energy projects, instead confining the success of solar projects to south-facing commercial rooftops. This might however seem at odds with other policies where we are frequently told of the country’s impending energy crisis and the need to find reliable alternative energy sources. So, in this vein we might question how much sense it makes for the government with one hand to be so committed to ensuring energy producing solar panels don’t blight our beautiful countryside, while with the other, in search of an energy solution, they are signing consents to give the go ahead to blight the countryside with fracking exploration.
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Simone is an environmental law specialist and is head of LexisPSL Environment.
Simone moved to LexisNexis from Clyde & Co where she trained. Whilst at Clyde & Co Simone gained experience in contentious work, including large scale arbitrations, private claims and regulatory breaches, and a variety of non-contentious issues. Some of her experience includes the EU Emissions Trading System, the domestic Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme, environmental due diligence, Energy Performance Certificates, permitting requirements and contaminated land.
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