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UK cleantech sector reacts to George Osborne’s Autumn Review
Yesterday UK Chancellor George Osborne announced the Autumn Review and National Infrastructure Plan, highlighting how the coalition government will attempt to prevent a double dip recession and accelerate growth and job creation.
Here are opinions from UK business on what effect the proposals should have on the UK cleantech sector;
Jae Mather, director of sustainability at HW Fisher & Company, said, ‘In claiming that social and environmental goals shouldn’t be a burden to business, the Chancellor has misconstrued the essence of sustainability, which is about reducing companies’ costs and helping them to manage the risk of rising energy prices. Also, larger companies increasingly want their supply chains to be made up of ethically sound businesses and those that fail to meet their criteria will potentially lose out. We encourage any initiatives that will reignite the UK’s [small to medium enterprises], but growth and sustainability are by no means mutually exclusive.’
John Scott, who sits on the energy policy panel of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), said, ‘With an ageing energy infrastructure and an urgent need to change the way we generate and use energy, the publication of the National Infrastructure Plan comes at a crucial time. The focus on interdependence of infrastructure systems is particularly welcome. However, the IET cautions that this needs to be considered at the design stage to maximise the opportunities for smart infrastructure, not just at the installation stage. Our future energy infrastructure has to be designed as a system of systems, requiring joined-up thinking across different sectors. Crucially, it needs a new engineering approach to address the uncertainties of the future, which will include a more statistical design and new skills across disciplines.’
Mark Payton, managing director of Mercia Fund Management, said, ‘The further increases in tax relief and the widening of the eligibility rules will make EIS investments into early stage high growth businesses even more attractive, particularly given the low levels of interest currently available on savings. This is not just good news for investors but it will potentially make a significant difference to the funding of such businesses and to the economy as a whole. We are also pleased that the Chancellor has recognised the vital importance of high technology firms in this economy, not only by improving the EIS reliefs but by continuing to support science funding and by widening the eligibility for [research and development] tax credits, all of which will further benefit the companies in which the fund will look to invest.’
Elin Twigge, environmental account director for Political Lobbying and Media Relations, said, ‘Importantly for the renewables sector, part of the [National infrastructure Plan] funding was earmarked to deliver improvements to both ‘waste facilities’ and ‘power stations.’ However, digging further into the supporting documentation, it appears that it isn’t green power that the Chancellor is championing. He cites a single renewable project, the recently consented Anglesey biomass power plant, alongside a host of coal and gas-fired developments. So, despite reiterating commitments to the Green Deal and creation of the Green Investment Bank, it is clear that in uncertain economic times, a low carbon economy is not this government’s most pressing priority. Instead they are reducing the tax burden on energy-intensive industry. A clear industrial policy is emerging, but is it more grey than green?’