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Biomass energy part of the future, says Huhne
Energy secretary Chris Huhne has included biomass as one of the key elements of the UK’s “third industrial revolution” despite industry concerns over plans to reduce biomass subsidies.
In a speech given to the Renewable UK conference in Manchester, Huhne robustly defended investment in renewable energy sources and criticised “faultfinders and curmudgeons” who claim renewables are too expensive.
He said support for renewable energy cost the average household less than six pence a day and outlined the role biomass was already playing in the UK’s energy mix. Around 3GW of energy is expected to be supplied by biomass by the end of the year.
“Without such backup the nation’s kettles would be cold in the Coronation Street ad breaks,” he added.
Huhne claimed there was widespread public support for renewable energy. A recent poll found 57% of adults in the UK said they viewed biomass favourably.
But in its response to the government’s proposals on Renewables Obligation banding, the main method of subsidy for the sector, energy company Drax said dwindling support for dedicated biomass would make the case for investment “highly challenging”.
Huhne also said the government was “breaking through thebarriers” preventing new schemes being built and that the National Planning Policy Framework would be made “clearer and more streamlined”.
Many waste industry experts have slammed the draft NPPF for failing to deal adequately with waste. The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) accused the government of “intentional vagueness” and said the document’s lack of clarity left a question mark over how local authorities would choose to implement their waste management strategies.
Responding to the speech, Charlotte Morton, chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association, said: “If fully supported, biogas alone could contribute over £2bn a year to the UK economy, and create 35,000 jobs – as well as the chance of valuable export markets for UK manufacturing.
“With concerns about energy security, fossil fuels getting ever more expensive and consumer energy price rises following, we cannot afford not to invest in renewable energy.”
Comment: PLMR Senior Account Executive Rebecca Newsom
Energy Secretary Chris Huhne’s comments today are interesting, following Chancellor Osborne’s speech earlier this month at the Conservative Party Conference. Talking in front of Tory delegates, Osborne signalled a Government retreat from the green agenda in favour of British economic growth.
Huhne made conflicting announcements today at Renewable UK’s annual conference, saying: “I want to take aim at the curmudgeons and fault finders who hold forth on the impossibility of renewables – the climate sceptics and armchair engineers who are selling Britain’s ingenuity short…We are not going to save our economy by turning back on renewable energy.”
Clearly a high-level rift on environmental policy within the Coalition then. Yet until the Government provides more actual policy clarity and explicitly outlines how it will support renewables growth in this country, this ministerial squabbling remains superficial. Last week’s release of the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) consultation on Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) bandings was several months late, and the industry is still waiting for clarification on new Feed in Tariff (FIT) levels for electricity generation to confirm the real value of support that it will get.
These delays have bottlenecked many viable renewable developments in the pipeline and significantly deterred UK financiers from making crucial investments that would enable projects to take off.
So while Huhne’s comments today are reassuring – in that they take a step towards shifting a dominant mind-set that renewables expansion would inhibit, rather than aid economic growth – they do not go far enough in locking down financial support and proving the Government’s commitment to the sector.