Edward Davey MP writes: The greenest government ever – at an affordable price

The announcement I made today of the levels of support for renewable generation for the period 2013-17 will unlock generation and network capital investment worth £20-25 billion between 2013 and 2017 This is the kind of sustainable long run growth and green jobs we need to get the economy moving again. This is further evidence that pursuing green policies can bring real economic benefits. The CBI recognised this  in their report earlier this month stressing the need for a stable climate for green investment. I just wish that some of the critics of green growth policies would pay heed to what the CBI and investors say.

The need for investment in renewables and other low carbon technologies to meet our commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 2050 is clear.  But I also have to make sure that we keep the lights on and ensure energy bills are as low as possible for the many people who are feeling the pinch.

So the package that I have announced today of the level of subsidies for renewable technologies had to strike the right balance between  our need to reduce carbon emissions, our energy security and ensuring affordable bills. I think we have done that. The rate of subsidy for technologies such as onshore and off shore wind has dropped reflecting the pressure we are putting on developers to drive down costs. But the levels of subsidy we are setting are based on evidence not on prejudice. Household bills over the period 2013-17 will be lower than they would be at current subsidy levels.

But I also know many local communities are concerned that decisions about onshore wind farms do not take adequate account of local concerns. That is why we amended the national planning policy framework so that local communities views are taken more into account and legislating so that business rates from renewable generators are retained in the local area. That is real localism but I want to see if we can go further.  So I have also decided to launch a call for evidence to see how local communities can have more of a say over and benefit economically from the development of onshore wind farms.

I also see a role for gas to help our energy security and keep the lights on. As our high carbon emission coal plants are withdrawn over the next few years gas will help to fill the gap. It will also play an important role in back up for the intermittent power supply coming from some renewable generation such as windpower. Longer term after 2030 gas can continue to play an important role when combined with carbon capture and storage technology.

Some people seem to think that shale gas will solve all our problems and usher in a period of cheap energy. There is no doubt that the discovery of shale gas worldwide has opened up new opportunities. But most reputable forecasters such as the International Energy Agency say that because of increases in demand for energy  in countries such as China, India and Brazil we will still see prices rising. We would not be doing consumers any favours by placing all our bets on shale gas. We must have a balanced approach.

Renewable energy has the potential to be a great British success story. As Liberal Democrats in government we are not just delivering the greenest government ever but also ensuring that we attract green investment and jobs to get our economy moving again.

* Ed Davey is the MP for Kingston & Surbiton and Leader of the Liberal Democrats

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  • How about the £500m tax relief for gas fields announced today by the Chancellor? Would you count that as a fossil fuel subsidy, of the kind the G20 agreed to phase out back in 2009?

    “Longer term after 2030 gas can continue to play an important role when combined with carbon capture and storage technology.” – So a decarbonisation target for 2030 would be quite reasonable?

    I hope party members will take note of the Treasury vs DECC / (some) Tories vs LD battles going on!

  • Richard George 25th Jul '12 - 1:00pm

    After the shambolic start to the week, the question that people want answered is: who is running the Department of Energy and Climate Change?

    George Osborne seems to think that he is, so are you going to stand up to him and champion 2030 decarbonisation? If not, is a Liberal Democrat Secretary of State going to be the first Minister to reject the recomendations of the Committee on Climate Change?

  • Shale gas is not an “opportunity” it is yet another nail in the world’s coffin. The government should impose a complete moratorium on any new fossil fuel exploration, and look at early closing of existing sources. If the currently known stocks of fossil fuels are burnt that will be more than sufficient to blow the already desperate two degree warming target clean out the water.

  • Jane Sweeney 26th Jul '12 - 1:40am

    At Last a Lib-Dem MP is doing something to keep Cameron and his buddies to stick to part of what was promised in their Manifesto. I only wish that Clegg had done the same with regard to the NHS, can you do anything to counteract the detrimental changes that threaten further damage to what was our greatest pride?

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th Jul '12 - 8:26pm

    @ Edward “But I also know many local communities are concerned that decisions about onshore wind farms do not take adequate account of local concerns.”

    I am concerned that too many communities wish to carry on as though nothing has changed in the areas of energy sustainability and security, global warming, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, expanding deserts, the loss of prime low-lying agricultural land, ever-growing population etc. Thinking we can carry on as we do now without adversely impacting on future generations is a complete deception.

    Local communities should have to take responsibility for generating a proportion of their energy locally. Pilot schemes with local energy audits backed by local campaigns and centrally financed by locally controlled green energy grants might prove interesting not least in focusing attention on the vast quantities of energy we waste every year.

    For example: Our community uses X mega watts of energy. We need to generate Y% of this … or Y-Z% of this by introducing energy saving measures. How would you choose to generate the balance LOCALLY?

    If people had to choose between solar panels, boreholes, wave power, wind turbines through to gas burning power stations, shale fracking, coal quarrying/mining, or nuclear power – in their area rather than someone else’s – they may come to see that a wind farm is a lot more palatable than gas, coal or nuclear generation on THEIR doorstep!

    This question relates to (frequently) newspaper-driven NIMBY-ism as much as anything else. Until we find a way of addressing that we are unlikely to make much real progress in the sustainable energy debate.

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