Ed Davey’s announced this week that he’d secured an important concession from the Chancellor over wind farm subsidies – but at what cost?
Although there was understandable relief over the certainty this move gave to investors in clean British energy it seems the victory may have come with a hefty price tag: an agreement to burden our electricity system with dirty and increasingly expensive gas for decades to come – despite the enormous damage this could cause to both the economy and planet.
Ed Davey’s success in securing a 10 per cent cut in wind farm subsidies – to reflect the fall in wind costs – instead of the 25 per cent cut favoured by George Osborne was urgently needed.
Business needs confidence to enable to invest and hopefully his announcement will encourage more firms to invest in the UK’s green economy.
But George Osborne doesn’t share the Lib Dems enthusiasm for clean energy and he’s pushing hard for more dirty gas-fired stations to be built – as revealed this week in an aggressively worded letter from George Osborne to Edward Davey.
If the Chancellor is successful it would be disastrous for both the environment and the economy.
Investing in a fossil fuel-dependent energy system would undermine Government promises to tackle global warming. The Committee on Climate Change – which advises ministers on meeting its legally-binding climate change goals – has recommended that the UK electricity system be almost entirely decarbonised by 2030 in order to meet UK emission reduction targets.
The CBI has also criticised the Chancellor’s lack of support for green energy as bad for business. The green economy is growing at over four per cent each year – while the economy as a whole fell 0.7 per cent in the three months up to June this year – and with whole-hearted Treasury support could deliver yet more.
CBI Director General John Cridland said earlier this month:
Get our energy and climate change policies right, and we can add £20bn extra to our economy and knock £0.8bn off the trade gap, all within the lifetime of this Parliament.
A committee of MPs also attacked the Chancellor earlier this week over energy. Energy and Climate Committee chair Tim Yeo warned:
The Government is in danger of botching its plans to boost clean energy.
The potential from developing clean British energy is enormous and could generate tens of thousands of new jobs.
And coupled with energy efficiency, renewable power could also provide a future energy system we can all afford.
The central reason behind sky-high fuel bills households and businesses have been struggling with has been the soaring price of gas.
According to Ofgem, higher gas prices have been the main driver of increasing energy -– and experts such as the International Energy Agency expect it to rise further still.
Relying on gas – much of which comes from unstable parts of the world – would be a reckless gamble that could leave future generations with a hefty bill.
George Osborne is trying to hold the coalition’s green credentials to ransom – and attempting to boost his standing with the Tory right at the expense of the nation’s finances and the planet.
It’s a profound responsibility to be Energy and Climate Change Secretary at this moment in history.
The urgent need to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of future generations by rapidly decarbonising the way we live is overwhelming.
Standing up for the environment when you’re in opposition is important – but it’s absolutely crucial when you are in power,
Ed Davey and Nick Clegg must stand firm on tackling climate change and fight the Chancellor’s fossil fuel bullying.
- Friends of the Earth is urging Nick Clegg to stand up to the Chancellor on clean British Energy:
- You can find more information on Friends of the Earth’s Clean British Energy campaign here.
‘The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.
* Craig Bennett is Policy and Campaigns Director of Friends of the Earth