Our green economy can only be protected from full Tory demolition by staying in the EU


Lynne Featherstone has joined forces with Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity  to talk about how the EU helps the renewable sector.

Just one year of a Tory-only Government we have seen a dangerous unravelling of the green actions of the Coalition. Our investment in the renewable sector made Britain the fastest growing green economy in Europe, created jobs and set solar and wind power on a path to becoming subsidy-free. This progress has been flung into jeopardy by a Government that has not made much effort to hide what it thinks of this “green crap”.

The renewable sector should be seen as an exciting area of innovation and growth, at a time when countries around the world are increasing their investment in green technology in response to global pressure to tackle climate change and domestic pressure to improve air quality. The UK is already a world leader in offshore wind and has the potential to establish this status in other areas such as tidal.

But instead of building on our competitive advantage and strengthening Britain’s reputation as a hub for green innovation, the Government has cut subsidies to unsustainable levels. It has failed to work with the industry to phase these out at an appropriate pace, while in contrast fossil fuel subsidies have been given a nine year phase out period recently by the G7.

Due to Britain’s leading role in Europe on climate change, the EU has ambitious targets for carbon reduction. These were achieved by Britain’s influencing power despite reluctance from countries including Germany and Poland.

These legally-binding targets may prove vital in Britain’s fight against climate change in the face of a Conservative Government that does not have a green agenda. A future leadership change could make this all the worse.

The EU is now on the right track leading the world in tackling this global threat and while it was Britain that got it there, it’s now Britain that needs its protection.

* Lynne Featherstone was the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green from 2005 to 2015, and served as a minister in both the Home Office and Department for International Development. She is now a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and blogs at www.lynnefeatherstone.org.

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  • While the headline is doubtless true, it is very galling to find that one of the reasons to vote remain is to cover for those who made such a mess of being in coalition, that they lost us almost all of our MPs. MPs who could have stopped all of this Tory madness directly.

  • Lynne’s insistence on “Britain’s leading role”, and it was “Britain who got the EU” to leading climate change leadership in the world is more than a slight exaggeration. Yes, there have been a couple of times when the UK has taken decisions which have pushed the agenda forward, but (particularly) Germany has over the years been much more prominent.

  • One of the few good things that the Tories have done is pull the plug on the “green” energy racket.

    Whole swathes of our precious countryside have been disfigured by industrial clutter that produces minimal power but hoses public money at landowners too bone idle to put their land to productive use.

    How many rural votes have we lost on the back of this madness?

  • Well It looks as if the referendum will be lost particularly so if we go in for Tory baiting.
    One of the failings of the Remain campaign, if that is what it was, has been this nip picking between its supporters. There should have been one clear message, not this sort of thing.

  • Sesenco
    Surprised at your dismissive comments about predominantly wind and solar energy. Their contribution to national power generation is considerable now, and could quickly and fairly cheaply be ratcheted up even more. Yes, we are still having storage issues, but work is being done even now to overcome, and sort them at affordable cost. The only low carbon alternative to renewables is nuclear (and that is arguable as to how low-carbon). Surely, it is right that public money be ploughed in to get as quick a transition as we can? Nuclear is simply too slow, too dangerous, and there is no viable method of dealing with waste. We have a climate and biodiversity emergency here! My argument is that these subsidies should come from general, progressive taxation, NOT from bills, which may hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

  • TIm13:

    My problem is not with the hardware, it is where the hardware is put. If it is located in places where the cultural and environmental damage is minimal (such as the North Sea or the Sahara Desert) I have no difficulty. What upsets me is the disfigurement of our landscapes, especially in the far south, with this glass and metal rash obliterating what were once green fields. The Liberal Democrats have become associated with something that not only has negative electoral consequences, but is causing real harm to things that a lot of people care about. Ask people who live in the Test Valley what they think of solar farms, and the answer will not be repeatable in polite society.

  • nigel hunter 14th Jun '16 - 12:19am

    ‘Hit the poorest in society’ If we could bring back solar power for council renters this could reduce their bills and give them further money to spend on the economy, surely this would be a boost for the country. The short sightedness of the Govnt. makes the country poorer.

  • Maybe your experience is different from mine, Sesenco. We still get outspoken anti comments, of course, about solar farms, but most developers make genuine efforts to get them into screened fields, and many of the fields are not seriously farmed (a few sheep for instance, which can often graze there anyway. We don’t allow top agricultural land to be developed in that way.

    Nigel Hunter Again, there are quite a number of local social houses with panels fitted – but agree it could be expanded.

  • @Tim13 – I’m not surprised at Sesenco’ comment.

    1. Wind is currently costing the grid around £102 per MWh; by way of comparison, for Hinkley Point C the government have committed to pay £92.50 per MWh… (Aside the current average domestic price for electricity is around £138.60 per MWh)

    2. When the person in charge of promoting the UK’s renewables industry publicly states that “England is not windy enough to justify building any more onshore wind turbines”, I think we probably should listen.

    3. With wind turbines now achieving efficiencies of 94~96% with respect to the theoretical maximum amount of energy that can be extracted from the wind, we are reaching the end of the road of efficiency improvements.

    4. You have to question the sanity of a system that makes it more remunerative to cover arable fields with solar panels than to actually use those fields for growing crops, particularly when currently so few roofs have solar panels on them.

    But after saying all that, I do agree with Lynne, that we do need to keep pushing the green agenda, which is greatly assisted by our membership of the EU, which achieves two important things, it firstly helps to create a more level playing field by getting countries to be more aligned in their initiatives and secondly it encourages governments to stick to their commitments.

  • “But after saying all that, I do agree with Lynne, that we do need to keep pushing the green agenda, which is greatly assisted by our membership of the EU,…”

    A good few years ago my brother (who had worked in China), and myself did some calculations regarding the importation of quality solar panels from China. From memory I recall that we could get a 28 foot container of Chinese solar panels dropped on Southampton dockside, for approx. 2/3rds the cost at the time. There was only one thing stopping the British having those cheaper solar panels. Can you guess what it was?
    EU anti dumping tariffs. So I fail to see how our EU membership has greatly assisted either, British consumers, or the green agenda, when it comes to more affordable solar installations?

  • @J Dunn – A good example of the strange world we now inhabit 🙂

    The real question is what created the market opportunity for solar panels in the UK, which lead your brother and yourself to investigate the shipment of panels from China.

    The next question is should the EU be nurturing and supporting it’s home industry, just as the highly protectionist US does and hence is the production of solar panels and the R&D and jobs that goes with it, something Europe should be doing.

    However, we should not forget that many in the EU have over many decades been investing in emerging markets including China and hence could quite reasonably expect to see some benefit from their investments, namely a slice of the profits obtained from the worldwide sale of solar panels made in China.

    So whilst I fully understand the point you are making that at the time and point of sale, the UK customer would seem to be paying a premium for EU manufactured panels and hence as a businessman you would shake your head; once we take into account the full economic effects of those panels on European trade balance and manufacturing, namely a smaller industry, fewer jobs, no substantive R&D in the sector etc., I wonder if the true price difference is so great.

    Looking at the EU anti-dumping regulations and how an anti-dumping investigation is invoked, I suspect part of the UK’s problem has been that we haven’t availed ourselves of the regulations to assist UK PLC.

  • Incoherent babble! If wind and solar energy were really ‘on a path to be subsidy free’ then it makes perfect sense to reduce the subsidies sent to them which is exactly what the tories actually did. The trouble is that they are nowhere near paying for themselves and every hypocritical green and faux-green knows it.

    In reality thanks to just such lies/half-truths/wishful thinking about renewables we are now firmly fixed on a path where supply will be less than demand come the next cold winter and every year after that – and the LibDem energy policy to cope with that certain disaster is……well I’m still trying to find it!

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