The Government has been accused of working against renewable energy by boosting subsidies for fossil fuels such as gas and diesel. This comes following plans to outlaw diesel and petrol cars and turn the UK towards a carbon neutral heating economy for the future.
According to the Renewable Energy Association:
“The Government maintains a de-facto ban on onshore wind, large-scale solar and biomass deployment by not funding “Pot 1” of the Contracts-for-Difference auctions and ending Feed in Tariffs for smaller generation.”
The Association says this comes in addition to cuts to renewable energy such as the lowering of the Feed in Tariff back in 2016. All of this has led to much less investment in the sector over the last few years, something that could be highly damaging for the future.
The Capacity Market Auction is intended to secure the future of the energy market for 2018 by paying for backup power generation capacity. Of the power secured during the auction, three quarters is gas with renewables only getting 6% and 2% for storage.
This has led some experts to wonder if the Government is serious about green energy and its future in the UK. There’s also the news that MPs are not looking to create any new spending on renewables beyond 2021. It has led to accusations that the Tories talk a good plan but aren’t willing to follow it through. To some, the results of the auction point create a situation where fossil fuels are being unfairly propped up by subsidies – something the Government is fond of saying that renewable energy has to learn to do if it was going to be viable.
A survey last year by the Government found that just 5% of people were either strongly opposed or moderately opposed to renewable energy with the vast majority in favour of new, clean technology. The Government will, of course, point to the fact that they have bolstered the Renewable Heat Incentive to promote low carbon heating and are investing in research and development for battery storage. Stalling on infrastructure such as the Swansea tidal lagoon and investment in the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, however, are seen as signs that many in the Tory party are not as enthusiastic as the general public about clean energy.
According to the Guardian last year, while many parts of the EU were set to meet its targets for 2020, the UK was lagging some way behind. Of course, the UK isn’t the only one struggling to meet the grade and bring on cleaner energy but the fact that the Government has stopped insisting that it will meet the deadline undoubtedly points to a lack of will, something that seems to have solidified in the aftermath of the Brexit decision.
Despite that, the UK has just gone through it’s greenest year and has been reducing emissions more than many of it’s G7 counterparts. Officials point to the dropping cost of renewables that make it more likely to survive without subsidies. According to Green Energy News, however, the Government needs to have clear and coordinated plans in place if we are going to let renewables take centre stage:
“For the UK, a strong, coherent, and consistent set of policies are required to accelerate growth and to help ensure that the UK reaches its emissions targets while simultaneously creating powerful new industries that generate good jobs for years to come.”
Like their Brexit policy, however, the clean energy agenda seems to be a mix of uncoordinated strategies that don’t really add up to a clear, coherent policy. This could prove problematic as we move into the next decade, especially if other countries start to move ahead at a greater pace.