Monday, August 17, 2015

15 anti-green policies announced since the Tories came to power

UK energy secretary Amber Rudd with Prime Minister David Cameron
UK energy secretary Amber Rudd (left) with Prime Minister David Cameron.

Since the Conservative party took complete control of the United Kingdom’s parliament three months ago they have revealed their true colours on energy policy and outraged many environmentalists. The party under David Cameron, who five years ago promised “the greenest government ever”, is now firmly headed in the opposite direction.

The basic trend seems to be a preference for large scale projects, offshore as opposed to onshore wind, wholesale and widely unpopular support for fracking, the oil industry and nuclear power. The biggest losers are energy efficiency in the home, onshore wind and solar power.

This is in complete contrast to the wishes of the British public, as identified by consistent polling, which is against fracking and for renewable energy.

In March 2015, in the government’s own survey, nearly four-fifths of the public (78 per cent) said they supported the use of renewable energy to provide the UK’s electricity, fuel and heat. This was broken down into offshore wind (73 per cent), biomass (63 per cent), onshore wind (65 per cent), wave and tidal (74 per cent) and solar (81 per cent). On fracking, only 24 per cent have said they support it and only 39 per cent support nuclear energy.

But the U-turn in policy is consistent with the Conservative tendency to listen to lobbyists from the nuclear and oil industries and to vocal campaigners from within rural conservative MPs’ constituencies who dislike wind turbines. At no point within the previous government did Chancellor George Osborne entertain lobbyists from the renewable energy industries.

British energy policy has long suffered from a lack of consistency, frequently lamented by the industry, which says it needs predictability in order to plan investment. Delays and about turns characterised the last years of the Labour government up to 2009 and much of the five years of the Coalition period when power was shared by the Conservatives with the greener LiberalDemocrats.

Here’s a list of the 15 anti-green policies announced since the Tories came to power:
  1. it has scrapped Renewables Obligation subsidies for new onshore wind farms and larger solar farms from next year
  2. it has launched a tax raid on renewable operators by extending the Climate Change Levy, intended to be a tax on fossil-fuel generators to include renewables, which will result in a substantial amount of lost income for clean energy companies. For example, Levy Exemption Certificates account for just over six per cent of onshore wind generators’ revenues
  3. it has tightened planning rules for the onshore wind energy sector and hinted that onshore wind farms will not be eligible to participate in any auction for price support contracts
  4. it has postponed to an unspecified date the next contract for difference (CfD) auctions for large renewables projects, leading to speculation it will not be undertaken this autumn as planned
  5. it has scrapped a policy that by 2016 every new home should be zero carbon, which has been in place for eight years and which the industry has been preparing for on the (debatable) grounds of affordability
  6. it has axed the domestic energy efficiency programme, the Green Deal, following disappointing take-up rates due to the fact that the interest rate at the start for borrowing finance was set way too high, at eight per cent (in Germany a similar, successful, scheme has an interest of late of just over two per cent)
  7. it is ending subsidies for small solar farms from next April under a consultation that will affect those with a capacity below 5MW accessing the Renewables Obligation (RO)
  8. it is cutting support for smaller renewable energy installations, ending a pre-accreditation process under which solar PV and wind projects above 50kW and all hydro and anaerobic digestion (AD) projects may confirm the level of support they can secure through the scheme once they have planning permission and a grid connection. This will particularly affect corporate and community renewables projects
  9. it is to sell off up to 70 per cent of the Green Investment Bank, launched in 2012 with £3.8 billion of public sector money and designed to profit from investment in new green infrastructure. The move was attacked by Tory Ben Goldsmith, chairman of the Conservative Environment Network, which numbers prominent Tory supporters and MPs among its members, who called it “one of the Coalition government’s few great, green achievements”
  10. it has reduced the incentive to buy a low-emissions car, charging the dirtiest and the cleanest the same rate of vehicle excise duty from 2017 in an effort to raise more tax revenue
  11. it is announcing plans to fast-track planning applications for fracking when local people and local authority planning departments decide against a scheme, even in sites of special scientific interest and national parks. Recently Lancashire Council rejected two planning applications from shale gas developer Cuadrilla
  12. it has scrapped a target set by the coalition government to keep increasing the proportion of revenue from environmental taxes
  13. it has removed the guaranteed level of Renewable Obligation subsidy for coal or other fossil fuelled-power stations if they wish to convert to burning biomass fuels
  14. there has been no funding for solid wall insulation since 26th March 2015
  15. it is to continue with support for nuclear power with an announcement expected this week on Hinkley Point C.

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