A TENTATIVE GREEN LIGHT FOR LOW CARBON INVESTMENT

Jessica Bridgman

As summer finally arrives in London, the heat seems to have affected some more than others. Namely, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey who have recently been embroiled in an argument over energy reform in the UK.

With this dispute delaying the Renewable Obligations Banding review by months, the Department for Energy and Climate Change today has finally released the Banding Review Consultation Response. It seems Mr Davey has claimed a slim victory over Mr Osborne, securing a 10% cut in onshore wind subsidies as opposed to the 25% the Treasury was pushing for.

The Treasury aimed to cut onshore wind farm subsidies by 25% in an attempt to appease 100 Conservative backbenchers who expressed their discontent with green energy subsidies in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. The dispute had left not only the renewable energy sector in flux, waiting for promised reform, but also the Cabinet Office, revealing two different visions of the UK’s future energy mix.

Even though agreements on Renewables Obligations Certificates (ROCs) have been reached, the spilt in the Cabinet Office shows a divide not only in Coalition Policy but within the Conservative Party itself. Tim Yeo, Conservative Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee had said:

“The Treasury has clearly intervened in the draft bill in a way that will put up bills to consumers and put off investors by increasing their risks.”

Which begs the question: when David Cameron said his government would be the ‘greenest government ever’ was George Osborne not taking notes?

While Mr Davey may have come out on top with onshore wind subsidies he seems to have sacrificed the 2030 goal of a decarbonised electricity market, something which environmental groups will not be happy about.

Mr Davey has been touting the merits of the revised ROCs, which according to DECC’s figures will create £20-25 billion of new investment in the economy between 2013 and 2017. He said:

“Renewable energy will create a multi-billion pound boom for the British economy, driving growth and supporting jobs across the country.”

This announcement will be a great relief to the low carbon energy industry who have been struggling to obtain investment in their innovative technologies for fear of lack of support in the future. While the current announcement has been favourable towards DECC, the Treasury has put a number of stipulations on the reforms calling for intermittent reviews and powers to pull the plug on green market tools which one suspects may be ineffective, specifically the feed in tariff.

Delays, disputes, and reviews all highlight what seems to be a short term view when it comes to energy policy. Only time will tell whether today’s announcement will be enough to deliver sufficient investment to allow for a transition to a low carbon economy, and time is ticking on.

Share this article