By Bob Duncan
With the UK government’s Energy Bill due to be published in the next few months, Friends of the Earth say that the Westminster energy policy is in tatters, following revelations of internal squabbling.
In a secret Greenpeace sting, former cabinet minister Peter Lilley was heard to say he thought the Chancellor George Osborne had deliberately manoeuvred climate change sceptic ministers into key positions at Westminster. He said the legally binding Climate Change Act should be made voluntary, or simply ignored.
This comes as English Energy Minister John Hayes repeated his view that there may be no need for more new applications for on-shore wind farms, once existing targets are met, in contradiction to the policy of his boss, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey.
Mr Hayes told Channel 4 News on Tuesday that “in respect of on-shore wind, with what’s built and consented and a small proportion of what’s in the planning system now, we will have reached our ambitions in respect of the renewables target. End of story.”
“The energy minister’s comments risk undermining investor confidence, jeopardising much-needed renewable energy projects and the many thousands of jobs they would create throughout the UK,” says Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of the wind industry body Renewable UK.
“This is a deliberate attempt to recklessly re-write coalition policy just before the most significant government intervention in the energy markets for a generation.”
Friends of the Earth is calling on the UK Government to include a target in the Energy Bill to decarbonise the power system by 2030.
According to the BBC, the Lib Dems are also insisting that the Bill should contain a target for carbon reduction in the electricity sector by 2030 but the chancellor insists that there should be none.
Commenting on news that George’s Osborne ‘supports Government energy policy’, Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said:
“Until the Energy Bill is published we don’t know what Government energy policy is. But we do know the Chancellor is pushing for one that will keep the nation hooked on dirty and increasingly expensive gas for decades.
“The Prime Minister must take action to stop leading Conservatives like George Osborne from pursuing an anti-green agenda and undermining investor confidence in clean energy.
“Tackling climate change was a key part of David Cameron’s plans to modernise the Conservative Party – but until he tackles the dinosaurs within his party he will struggle to succeed.”
In stark contrast to the apparent confusion in Westminster energy policy, the Scottish government is pushing ahead with its support for the renewables industry north of the Border.
In Holyrood today, Kenny Gibson MSP asked what the Scottish government is doing to encourage the renewables industry in Scotland. He received the following response from Fergus Ewing, the minister for Energy, enterprise and Tourism:
“The member will be aware that in October the First Minister announced a commitment of £4.3 million from the National Renewables Infrastructure Fund for the Hunterston Offshore Wind Test Centre.
“Once fully operational, the facility, which is also benefiting from a £50 million investment from SSE, will be capable of hosting 3 full-scale wind turbines designed for offshore deployment.
When asked about the time-scale for this project, Mr Ewing added:
“Initial work is going ahead and we expect the project to proceed relatively swiftly. And I praise the work that the Ayrshire Economic Partnership is doing.
“That work and others is contributing to the fact that there are now 11,000 jobs supported by renewable energy in Scotland – more than in the whisky industry – and the potential to develop offshore wind, wave and tidal would see Scotland leading the world renewable industry… with the possibility of 5,000 turbine manufacturing jobs in Scotland.”