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James Williams
James Williams

WANTED! Green policy clarity

Earlier this month saw the publication of a damning report which highlighted the need for clearness and simplicity in UK government policy to give companies more confidence when investing in Green technologies, particularly in the electricity market.

The report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a UK based think-tank, shows that a history of the UK government blowing ‘hot and cold’ on carbon reduction plans has reduced investment in the energy sector despite the prime minister David Cameron declaring that he passionately believes that renewable energy is vital to the UK’s future.

The UK government has previously made radical claims about reducing the UK emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 as set out in The Climate Plan 2011 and this is backed by the recommendation of the official Climate Change Committee (CCC). The CCC recommended that for the UK to achieve these bold targets electricity has to be virtually decarbonised before the 2030’s, with a slender 50gCo2/kW cap being set.

Indeed the CCC’s chairman Tim Yeo has previously stated, "It really is vital that the government gives clarity to investors soon because tens of billions are needed, and renewables investors are being deterred by the ongoing uncertainty."

This ethos, of solid structuring of policy, looked as though it was taken to heart by the UK government when £3Bn of public money was put behind the Green Bank which will provide funding for Green projects in the UK. It is hoped that the bank will be established and ready to operate later in 2012. The five areas which this money will support are: offshore wind power; commercial and industrial waste recycling; energy from waste generation; non-domestic energy efficiency; and supporting the Green Deal.

The Green Deal, set to be rolled out towards the end of 2012 in the UK, will provide support for businesses wanting to become more energy efficient and for householders to do the same with their properties.

However, a reading of this policy shows that the £3Bn will create few new jobs, the majority of which, about 70, will be in London. It also shows that wave and tidal power will not be included in the priority list as they are both not considered commercially viable.

So, there are some good noises coming from the government, but it seems to be backed by little substance. This is underlined by the recent news that Vestas, the Danish wind turbine company has shelved plans to create 2,000 jobs on the Isle of Sheppy due to a lack of orders. Oh, and the lost 6,000 jobs which would have been generated in the solar industry but have now evaporated after the poor handing of solar subsidies.

When the ConDem government came to power they took the opportunity to claim that they would be the ‘Greenest government ever’ and David Cameron even remarked at the climate summit in London last week that, "When I became prime minister I said I would aim to have the greenest government ever and this is exactly what we have".

But all that bravado is not translating into jobs and investment. This is not the greenest government ever and a similar future is being cast. If the government do not get a solid grip on the massive potential the UK has in renewable energy for creating energy sustainability and jobs by providing a clear voice to investors and businesses, a devastating blow will be made on this and future generations.

The message that the UK is ready and able to accept investment into the Green energy sector needs to be heard far and wide. This needs to be a single message repeated many times rather differing messages told at select times.

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"This is underlined by the recent news that Vestas, the Danish wind turbine company has shelved plans to create 2,000 jobs on the Isle of Sheppy due to a lack of orders. Oh, and the lost 6,000 jobs which would have been generated in the solar industry but have now evaporated after the poor handing of solar subsidies." Are you really calling for the government to be driving demand? Not actual, sustainable (economically speaking) demand from consumers? 

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Don't forget the goverments new energy bill! Which as George Monbiot points out allows "both coal and gas plants have been exempted from any targets for cutting carbon emissions: and with that the 2008 Climate Change Act goes up in smoke." http://www.monbiot.com/2012/05/28/bonfire-of-promises/

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No, I'm not calling for the government to be driving demand. I'm calling in to question the prime minister's claim that this is the greenest government when the government has not been aiding wind turbine orders and has damaged solar subsidies to such an extent that adoption of the technology has fallen and consumer fears have exacerbated beyond the PV industry. Really it is about reducing the supply of Green energy. The lost jobs in the Green energy sector stunts its growth at a time when we should be throwing everything behind it. Pretty damaging governance in my eyes.

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