Short Termism and Entrenched Ideas: What Happened to the Greenest Government Ever?

Short Termism and Entrenched Ideas: What Happened to the Greenest Government Ever? In the past, David Cameron has made much of his green credentials. Back in 2010 when the Lib-Con Coalition first formed he stated that he wanted it to be part of the ‘greenest government ever’. That may, of course, have been because of the Liberal influence but the Prime Minister made a point of adding:

“Nowhere are long-term decisions more needed than actually in the fields of energy and climate change and environment.”

He also said:

“We’ve got a real opportunity to drive the green economy to have green jobs, green jobs and make sure we have our share of the industries of the future.”

So what has gone so drastically wrong in the last few months since the coalition ended and the Tories took full control of the climate change agenda? With the Labour leadership in disarray for much of the time, the government was free to try and push through some major changes, and cut backs, which they really wanted to do whilst in coalition.

In July of this year, they were forced to close the Green Deal initiative after the money ran out something that led to criticism from Green MP Caroline Lucas who called it ‘cowardly.’ Then there was the confirmation that the government were planning to cut Feed in Tariff subsidies so dramatically that it almost gave some in the solar industry fatal heart attacks.

With the Paris summit coming up shortly, Cameron is going to have to work hard to convince other nations, not least the population of the UK, that he means business on renewables.

The 2015 Paris Summit on Climate Change

There’s no doubt that government’s across the world have struggled in implementing the climate change measures that would see us dramatically reduce our collective carbon footprint. With perhaps a million set to march in protest on the streets of Paris, there’s also no doubt that the public are beginning to lose patience.

Organisers of the planned believe that they can force the politicians into changing if enough numbers take to the streets. Back in September last year, the march was in New York and attracted some 700,000. This November, expectations are for a much bigger turnout, in excess of a million, when protesters take to the Champs-Élysées ahead of the summit in December.

Will it make a difference? Will it force our politicians to change their procrastinating ways? There are many who doubt it.

Who Decided on Fracking?

Whilst getting rid of the Green Deal and reducing the Feed in Tariff have got many people hot under the collar, it’s the plan our ‘greenest government ever’ has for fracking that is perhaps causing much deeper concern with the general public. Outlining his own green credentials before being elected Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn made the point of saying:

“In the last Parliament, the Tories spent £3 billion on fossil fuel subsides and blocked renewable energy targets for Europe. George Osborne said the Government is going &all out for fracking& and has recently introduced regulation that would allow fracking in national parks and through aquifers, risking contaminating the water we drink.”

You would be hard pressed to find many enthusiasts of fracking outside the industry, especially amongst those who might have to endure it in their own back yard. Balcombe in West Sussex was the scene of one of the biggest anti-fracking rallies so far and the residents have recently started crowdfunding to develop solar energy in the area. Some would say that it is another example of the government’s short term outlook and their reluctance to embrace the world of renewables.

Others may be right in saying that the government is far too susceptible to the lobbying of powerful interests such as the fracking industry and fossil fuel sector to be trusted with the energy future of the UK. In any event, their short term view of one of our most important sectors could yet cause untold damage and prevent us from reaching the targets most scientists say we need to attain in the next twenty to thirty years.

The Shape of Things to Come: Are our Utility Companies Doomed?

Community Wind Farm Planning

We may be fast approaching a time when utility companies and major energy suppliers become a thing of the past. As we continue to embrace the world of renewable energy, including solar panels and wind farms, many of us are becoming less focused on the national grid and more on community power generation.

Is it possible that in the next twenty or thirty years each town or city will have its own personal power supply that is financed and maintained by local inhabitants?

We have, over the last decade or so, seen a number of community projects for hydro-electric and wind farm development taking place. Though these today feed into the national grid and the power they generate is used for the benefit of all, with a slight tweak in infrastructure we could see individual communities becoming far more sustainable and independent than ever before.

Whether it is a good idea or not, remains to be seen, but the capacity is there along with the technology to change the way that we distribute and generate power.

Is Community Solar the Way Forward?

One of the arenas in which community renewable energy projects have taken off more recently is with solar power. In the current climate where large solar farms are being knocked back because of lack of funding or an unwillingness to grant planning permission, one of the clear ways of getting panels onto rooftops is through the backing of the local community.

Subsidies and the Feed in Tariff may well be under threat, but if the evidence of recent projects is to go by the solar power industry still has a pretty bright future.

The Chase Cannock Community Solar project is a prime example of how to raise money to install solar panels by getting people to invest in a sustainable energy initiative. Anyone over the age of 16 can buy shares in the project and the minimum investment is £100. The dividends are paid through the revenue generated from panels that have been installed with the return expected to be about 7% over the next 20 years. The project has so far raised £750,000 to help with the installation of solar panels in the local community.

In Berwick, East Sussex, plans are afoot to build a solar farm that will be largely funded by the local community who will also benefit from the profits. The new endeavour will be an additional site to a nearby commercial solar farm and chairman Alister Scott echoed the benefits for many communities when he said:

“Solar technology now puts power in our hands, giving us the opportunity to generate clean power and local revenue that we can do great things with.”

In Balcombe, where people are also protesting against proposed fracking in the area, they are getting together to create a co-operative that will supply electricity to the local homes through solar power, with co-founder Joe Nixon commenting:

“Advances in renewable technology mean that communities like ours can now generate the energy we need ourselves, locally, in a way that benefits us directly instead of big power companies – and helps the environment instead of harming it.”

A lot, of course, depends on the energy and enthusiasm of the local community when it comes to projects such as these. It could be that the renewable energy agenda may well be taken out of the hands of national governments and managed locally, with residents having a much greater say over how their own power is generated.

Whilst it may take time, the notion of community solar panels and other technology is beginning to gain greater traction and could be the most viable and productive option for our future electricity generation.

Is it Time the People Took Back their Power?

Climate Change

The Government’s plans to cut Feed in Tariffs for renewables in the New Year by as much as 87% has caused a good deal of consternation and bafflement. Many have seen it as tantamount to cutting off the blood supply to a valuable industry that is beginning to thrive and make a real difference to the future energy needs of the UK.

It has also given rise to various conspiracy theories concerning the morals of a Tory Cabinet who are charged with having more interest in fossil fuels, nuclear power and maintaining the energy status quo than many consider healthy.  One of the reasons that the Government might well be getting cold feet over the energy agenda is the development of more and more community projects that could well see an end to the monopoly operated by the big six energy companies.

Clean energy is taking off and some major players are starting to get worried.

According to the Guardian this week, the people (that’s you and me) quite reasonably want to take back their power supply. The local council in Nottingham has been working hard to get round current energy legislation – most of which has been developed through the narrow minded portal of the big six – in an attempt to end fuel poverty and create community energy projects that could well change the local landscape for good.

They are not the only ones. In towns and cities across the UK community projects are beginning to pop up as people realise they like the idea of renewables and they also love the notion of community ownership. Whilst the Government are perhaps banking on most of the noise coming from the renewables industry in the lead up to the January deadline for cutting the Feed in Tariff, they may have misjudged how committed the general population is to cleaner and more sustainable energy production.

Taking a Leaf Out of Holland’s Book

The Netherlands might be the inspiration that the great British public needs to realise that governments can be held to account. 886 ordinary Dutch people took their complaint to the courts and sued their government recently. What was even more remarkable was that they actually won. The reason for the case? The people believed that the government wasn’t taking its climate change targets seriously and need to be held to account. The judge in The Hague agreed with them.

This is a landmark judgement that could see similar cases rising up all over the world as the general population loses patience with government’s who have persistently dragged their feet over climate change. The interesting point is that the people who brought the case were not composed of the usual suspects of sandal wearing hippy types (as some media outlets would lead us to believe) but a group of entrepreneurs, teachers and students.

It’s not just the UK and the Netherlands. A number of governments are falling behind on their commitments to tackling climate change and the renewables agenda. Australia were reported to be cutting back last year and Pakistan has recently performed a u-turn on its own policy. The US has gone a long way to moving towards energy independence but a lot of this had depended on embracing a controversial fracking agenda that many still see as damaging.

What the Netherlands case shows is that the people can have an influence on the renewables agenda and hold their politicians to account.

What Happens Now?

On the surface, the attack on Feed in Tariffs by the Government is a simple cost saving exercise. They can cut millions, if not billions, off the deficit by curtailing this particular subsidy. Underlying that, however, is the effect that it is going to have on the burgeoning renewables industry, putting the green agenda back a few good years when it should be pushing forward and making us greener and more independent.

According to Green Technica:

“Failing to grow a country’s renewable energy industry will only yield ever-increasing electricity bills as the need to pay for the dying fossil fuel industry will only continue to grow.”

In truth, the industry on its own can bring a certain degree of pressure but it requires the great British public to voice its opinion if the Government is going to change its mind.

There’s no doubt that we like and may even love renewables in the UK. Now might be the right time to show it. If you are against the plan to cut FiT for renewables, then add your name to the petition below.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/106791

Tories Call Time on the UK Renewable Energy Industry

Conservative Government Destroys Renewable Energy Industry

The Government has just announced the final deathly blow to the renewables industry and Britain’s ailing green agenda as they revealed that FiT payments were going to be reduced by as much as 87% from the beginning of next year. The announcement has sent shockwaves through the industry with many prominent supporters coming out to express their disappointment and anger at the decision.

What is planned?

The Government released their consultation document on the future of Feed in Tariffs at the end of August. There have been rumblings and rumours over the last few months about what the document was going to contain but everyone was surprised at the severity of the proposed cuts.

FiTs basically provide those who have installed renewable technologies such as solar panels with a set rate that the energy companies then pay them for the amount of electricity they produce. It is currently the major driving force for industries such as solar and has been one of the prime reasons that households and businesses have taken up clean energy tech like solar and wind generators. This payment enables the new technologies to compete with existing established fossil fuel heat energy technology and grid supplied electricity, the removal of this essential assistance makes the break even / payback period of the renewable technology almost the same as the lifespan of the system, making the investment untenable.

The DECC review proposes massive cuts to all bands of the FiT which most feel will result in an almost immediate collapse of the industry which currently employs over 20,000 people. Plummeting investor confidence will see the development of smaller residential and larger commercial installations come to an almost immediate halt. The Government are aware that this will have a significant impact on a thriving industry and seem to be largely relying on their unrealistic perception of its resilience to survive this draconian cost cutting exercise. According to the Solar Power Portal:

“The government’s accompanying Impact Assessment document admits that the proposed changes to the feed-in tariff rates would wipe 6GW off UK renewable generation capacity by 2020/21.”

The reasons for reducing FiT

The question many supporters of green technologies are asking is what reason the Government would have for pulling the rug from under the renewables industry at a time when it is beginning to thrive and make a real difference to the energy future of the UK.

The Government has already intimated that if this round of cost cutting is not successful, they may have no choice but to close the offer of generation tariffs to new applicants and end FiT altogether. They largely depend on their budget for renewables dictated through the Levy Control Framework and there are big fears that if current spending continues they will far outspend their £7.6bn limit which could cause an increase in energy bills towards the end of the decade.

Reaction from the renewables industry

The response from those in and around the renewables industry has been both stark and uncompromising. There is a general feeling that the Government has turned its back on the advance of technologies such as solar and wind energy generation under pressure from the fossil fuel industry and other anti-green lobbyists.

Professor Sue Roaf from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh put it succinctly enough in a letter to the Guardian:

“Big Energy and DECC have realised that if everyone generates their own electricity and heats their water with solar systems, there will be no markets for nuclear electricity and fracked gas. No wonder they are determined to kill off the solar industry.”

The suggestion that this Government is putting their dubious financial and ideological motives ahead of the wellbeing and welfare of the rest of the country has been touted in various circles.

With the UN Paris climate conference due to take place later this year, many are bemused as to why the embarrassing decision has been taken to undermine two of the cheapest and most popular forms of renewable energy production in the UK. (As well as cutting/abolishing incentives for other carbon reduction technology)

It is all the more worrying after energy secretary Amber Rudd only a year ago hailed the solar industry as one of the big successes in UK business, making a big point of the fact that it had not only provided clean energy for the country but also helped to create over 14,000 jobs.

The solar industry is not averse to the idea of operating without subsidies, sensible digression was expected as the technology and industry evolved. Seeing its future as an affordable clean energy, providing the option for co-generation, that is able to thrive without the need for help from the government. However, the severity of the planned cuts have come too soon for an industry that is beginning to make huge advances and provide the UK with a significant level of clean energy and vast carbon reduction.

Organisations such as the Solar Trade Association are also worried about what the breaking news will mean for the industry as the reduction in the FiT is still essentially in the consultation phase. Head of Policy Mike Landy commented:

“We regret that proposals to suddenly cut tariffs combined with the threat of closure of the scheme next January will spark a massive market rush. This is the antithesis of a sensible policy for achieving better public value for money while safeguarding the British solar industry.”

There is no doubt that we may be approaching stormy seas for the renewable energy industry as the Government tries to reduce costs and bring their spending under control. Whilst there may be many who are happy to see us rely on fossil fuels such as gas and oil, develop potential fracking sites and build exorbitantly expensive new nuclear power stations, there are many more who will be worried that we are stopping the green energy industry in its tracks for short sighted and dubious reasons – all for the sake of saving consumers £7 per year on their energy bills! The decimation of an industry that promotes greener, cleaner living is occurring at a harrowing rate directly under everyone’s noses, whilst the Government heavily subsidise the oil, gas, fracking and nuclear industries with tax payer’s money from other sources.

To put this in perspective, the subsidies for ALL renewables currently cost £4.3bn per year funded by a small part of the ‘green taxes’ on your energy bill, all totalling approximately 8%. Compare this to the £26bn per year in subsidies for fossil fuels, that’s £400 per year, per household to support the fossil fuel industry, funded by Government through other taxes. It is easy for them to save you money on your energy bills by scrapping renewables, albeit temporarily, this is however a false economy as we will all end up paying for the consequences of this miss-management in the long run. This may end in the UK being beholden to foreign energy companies dictating UK prices with no real renewable energy infrastructure of our own. Read more about the breakdown of Green Taxes here..

If you oppose the drastic cuts to the FIT and removal of support for the renewable energy industry, please show your support by voting here to help persuade the Government to rethink its green policy and help promote the renewables industry and not destroy it:

TO VOTE CLICK HERE

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