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The Government's entire green subsidies narrative is nonsense

The Government's entire green subsidies narrative is nonsense

Alasdair Cameron
22 July 2015
Not content with backing fracking to the hilt, the Government now seems to be planning an all-out assault on the Green Economy. And it's already begun.

The last few weeks have seen the Government announce an effective ban on onshore wind, privatise the Green Bank, scrap the Zero Carbon Homes plan, shove up taxes for green cars and put a ludicrous carbon tax on renewable energy.

Now it seems they are planning to slash the remaining support for large-scale solar and even the solar feed-in tariff – the same scheme which allows people like you and me to install solar panels on our homes and schools – may be under threat. There are long term fears too for offshore wind.

Driven by the most childish and short term political motivations, this is an attack on the UK economy and people.

The central contention of all this with regard to renewables is that the Levy Control Framework – the pot of money from which clean energy support systems are nominally paid, and which is added to bills – is finished. Therefore tough choices must be made.

This is wrong for several major reasons. First it’s not finished. It just might be in some future projections.

Secondly, the Levy Control Framework is an arbitrary pot. It was invented as a political trade off. It’s been useful to get the renewable business going, but it doesn’t represent anything special. Not all energy subdidies are in it. Why for example are only renewable supports in there, not supports to fossil fuels, like the capacity market (a scheme for paying off old-style power plants to stay dormant)?

Thirdly, the reasons for the supposed over-spend are that we have installed more solar than they thought we would, because costs fell more quickly than expected (along with subsidies it should be said), and that offshore wind is turning out to be even more efficient than expected.

And, fourth, the language the Government is using makes it clear this is not about saving money, or helping our pensioners (as one Cabinet source put it). The green levies are just a few percent of overall bills, and even if that was the concern there are any number of suggestions of how to manage the money better, or how to make it fairer, but that is not what the debate is really about, is it?

The focus on nuclear is a dead giveaway too. It’s not cheaper. It’s more expensive than wind or solar, but it has the advantage that it won’t happen for years, it involves a state-backed company and it sounds impressive to the kind of people who think there is something vaguely suspect about the very idea of renewable energy. As if. Power from the sun? I ask you.

No. This is not about sensible energy policy. Or the best systems. It’s certainly not about climate. It is about looking tough in the papers, and promoting gas - not least, fracked gas, which the Prime Minister is going "all out" to support. It is about Mr Osborne currying favour with backbench MPs in advance of his leadership bid.

Of course there are lots of sensible things we could be discussing. The costs of renewables should come down, and they are. The energy system should be fairer. How DECC can best respond. But that’s not the wider Government agenda.

The bottom line is that we were all told that decarbonisation is really hard, but it turns out it's not. It’s actually happening too easily, and that's what’s wrong. This is a problem of the Treasury’s own making.

In a few month’s time the Prime Minister is going to go to Paris to try and get a global carbon deal. Everything his government is doing is undermining this. He will need to work very hard to turn this around.

We need to tell them what we think. Businesses, people who care about a safe climate, everyone, needs to stand up for renewable energy. Over the next few weeks we’ll be building a movement to back our right to cleaner, healthier energy, and a better world.

Watch this space and follow me on Twitter for updates.

And one final thing. The UK needs the Green Economy more than it needs the UK. Development is global, which means that the Green Economy will happen. We will simply be left behind, choking, quite literally, in the exhaust fumes.