Sunday Times

Sunday 22 July 2012


DONALD TRUMP, the flamboyant property tycoon, is to lead an attack on Westminster’s renewable energy plans and will call on ministers to slash wind farm subsidies.

The American billionaire, who is fighting plans for a wind farm close to his golf course in Aberdeenshire, will address up to 2,000 guests at a dinner in London in October.  The event is being organised by Chris Heaton-Harris, the Conservative MP for Daventry who is also an outspoken critic of wind farms.

Trump, who has been asked to appear before the House of Commons public audit committee later this year to give evidence on renewable energy, will use the dinner to warn of the threat from turbines to Britain’s landscape and tourism industry.  Details of the dinner come at a delicate time for Britain’s renewables industry. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has proposed a 10% cut to onshore wind energy subsidies although George Osborne, the chancellor, wants to go further, with a 25% cut.

A decision was due last week but it has been deferred, potentially for months, as the two departments and senior cabinet members argue over the way forward.

RenewableUK, the trade body for the wind industry, has warned that Osborne’s proposal will “kill off the industry”, threaten the creation of thousands of jobs and condemn the public to decades of dependence on fossil fuels and ever-rising energy bills.

A spokesman described Trump and Heaton-Harris as “yesterday’s men” for their opposition to wind power.  However, Trump, who has described wind turbines as “ugly monstrosities” believes government plans to build thousands more will destroy Britain’s landscape. Many of Scotland’s famous landmarks, such as Stirling Castle, already stand in the shadow of wind turbines.

Chris Huhne, the Westminster energy minister, has indicated that as many as 35,000 turbines could be erected by 2050 to help the British government to reach greenhouse gas emission targets. Up to 10,000 of these could be onshore.

“This is no longer just about Donald Trump opposing a wind farm off the east coast of Scotland,” said George Sorial, a spokesman for the tycoon. “We are going for a killer blow. This is an aggressive move that aims to cause the renewables industry as much pain as possible by bringing about heavy cuts to their subsidies.

“The massive handouts these wind farm companies enjoy at the expense of the British taxpayer are behind the construction of thousands of ugly, industrial turbines. If action isn’t taken now, the British landscape will be blighted by tens of thousands more.”

Heaton-Harris, said: “This is an issue I don’t think many people have thought about and one of the aims of bringing Trump to London is to massively raise public awareness. We need someone to push the ball over the line and Donald is the man who can do it.”

Wind power groups fear the drive to slash public subsidies for developments has been inspired by the vociferous hostility to onshore turbines from many Tory MPs, 101 of whom signed a petition against the industry this year. Heaton-Harris, who was behind the petition, has called for a “dramatic cut” in the subsidy.

Trump’s fight against plans for an 11-turbine offshore wind farm close to his newly opened golf course in Aberdeenshire sparked a public spat with Alex Salmond, the first minister.

The tycoon is financially backing an anti-wind farm lobby group, Communities Against Turbines Scotland, and has said he is prepared to spend as much as £10m funding the fight against turbines.

He recently appeared before a Holyrood inquiry into renewable energy where he described himself as “the world-class expert in tourism” and warned that what he called ministers’ obsession with wind farms threatened irreparable damage to Scotland’s economy.

A spokesman for RenewableUK said: “We’ve had a lot of dealings with Heaton-Harris and it’s no surprise he would want to stage an event in London with someone like Trump.

“We know these people have a very limited amount of support, they shout very loud but opinion polls show there is public support for greater deployment of wind energy.”