From Hero to Zero: The UK’s Fall from Renewable Grace

It hasn’t taken long for the UK to fall from being one of the world leaders on renewables to suddenly lagging behind the rest. With the Paris Climate Change Conference in November, David Cameron might have difficulty convincing other world leaders that he is serious about reducing carbon emissions after dealing several deadly blows to the renewables industry in recent times.

The problem is that most other countries are still showing their commitment, even Australia who recently found themselves on shaky ground, seem to have received a fresh impetus and are now talking up renewables in more certain terms.

What the Rest of the World is up to

In the US, according to Renewable Energy World:

“All federal agencies, including the U.S. military, have now been directed to ensure that by 2025, at least 25 percent of their total energy consumption will be from clean, renewable energy sources. They also were directed to reduce energy use in their facilities by 2.5 percent between 2015 and 2025.”

Even the country’s military installations are embracing renewables big time with housing made more efficient and the building of solar projects in areas such as Fort Bliss in Texas and the naval base at North Island, Carolina.

Australia, which for a while has been on the back foot in the renewable stakes, is now boasting that it can become a centre of innovation for solar storage. The recent election of a new liberal government in Canada is sign that the country may now start leading the way on the climate change agenda. Google is currently investing in one of the largest windfarms in Africa. Pick any country across the world and you will find a hive of renewable activity. It seems a large part of the globe is committed to the renewable agenda.

Cutting the Renewable Lifeline

The consultation for the renewable subsidy cuts closes on Friday 23rd October and unless it comes up with some radical solutions we could see major changes in the renewables industry within just a few short months of the change being implemented early next year. The cost to the UK could be catastrophic, not only locally but to our international standing on climate change. It may not only mean the death of businesses delivering installations such as solar panels but also knock back many community projects that are in development and are planned for the future.

Lagging Behind the Joneses

It’s not just people are at home who are largely puzzled by the Government’s approach to renewables. Staunch advocate of the need to tackle climate change Al Gore used a recent speech to say that he feared Cameron and his cabinet were making a huge mistake and would compromise the UK’s standing as a leader on the climate change agenda.

It’s not just the left leaning press that is getting on the back of the Government over cuts to subsidies either. The Telegraph, strong supporter of everything Tory, reported that ending the onshore subsidy for windfarms would save bill payers just 30p a year, a damning indictment after Amber Rudd proposed it would save us a lot of money, one of the main reasons for implementing the cut.

According to the Telegraph, even if a large number of wind turbines were blocked by the cut, the cost to the bill payer would be nominal:

“According to the impact assessment, DECC’s central estimate is that the change will prevent consumers paying an extra 30 pence a year, or 0.05 per cent of an annual electricity bill. In DECC’s highest estimate, 2.5 GW of turbines could have been blocked, saving households £3.40 a year, while in the lowest estimate the change will have made no difference at all.”

Damage to Investment

The one thing that may well hasten the end of renewables in the UK, more severely than the Government would like to admit, is the reluctance of investors to get their cheque books out. A number of notable withdrawals have happened already with Drax pulling out of its carbon capture project in Yorkshire. Expect more reluctance in the future as big money looks elsewhere to invest in renewable projects. Unless the Government performs a u-turn or subsidies or comes up with a radical new solution to protect the industry, it could be a cold winter and spring for solar, wind and renewable heat.

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