A see-saw for renewable energy

Earlier in the year it was the solar industry expressing its concern about changes to subsidies and Feed in Tariffs. Now the Treasury is eyeing up a 25% cut in subsidies for onshore wind. The decision has had to be delayed until the Autumn, allegedly following an intervention and objection from DECC Secretary Ed Davey and Deputy PM Nick Clegg. A situation attacked by Caroline Flint as “ridiculous”.

It was initially thought a cut of 10% would be agreed but Chancellor George Osborne and many back bench Conservative MPs have supported a 25% cut in subsidy, something that would cut back £400m per year.

The challenges where these subsidies are concerned, however, are much more than a matter of politics. 

DECC approved two offshore wind farms off the coast of Lincolnshire, but rejected a third due to the impact it would have on the migration paths of a certain species of bird. The £1.5bn project by Centrica, Dong Energy and Siemans, will provide 1GW of capacity for 400,000 homes. £10m has been spent on the planning for these developments already.

But for some, the continued development of wind energy remains the wrong choice. The Centre for Policy Studies and the Institute for Economic Affairs both called on the Prime Minister to accelerate new nuclear rather than wind. Instead they advocated a, “realistic energy policy” based on shale gas, coal and new nuclear.

The new President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, former poet laureate, Andrew Motion believes it is right that bills should increase and that the cost of offshore wind was worth it to protect the countryside. He too, supports the development of new nuclear and furthermore has pledged to use the CPRE to challenge climate change sceptics. However, if DECC’s public attitudes tracking is a true reflection of the country as a whole, only 12% are opposed to onshore wind outright.

Whilst the success of new technologies relies on subsidy and Government support, and may be seen by some to be more essential than those more proven energy sources, the CBI’s John Cridland raises a valid concern about the security of investment in the UK.

With the scale of investment needed in the UK’s energy future Mr Cridland has a valid point, despite Q2 investment in clean energy doubling to a three year high of £2.3bn according to Bloomberg.

If we are to remain, as Energy Minister Charles Hendry described it, “racing ahead of the rest of the global field”, with the investment and jobs that come with it, then clear, timely and consistent messages from the Government need to become the norm for our energy future.

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