The House of Lords has clashed over cuts to the feed-in tariff which Baroness Featherstone labelled as “untenable” and an “extraordinary micromanagement of an industry”.
Yesterday evening the House of Lords debated the topic following Liberal Democrat Baroness Featherstone’s laying of a motion last month. While it was not expected to result in a vote, the motion did however trigger a debate on the topic after the government announced drastic cuts to the FiT in December.
Featherstone started the debate with an impassioned criticism of the government’s energy policy, arguing that the recent subsidy reset risked “far-reaching and detrimental effects” that would “put our renewables industries in serious jeopardy”.
The Baroness then broached the contentious topic of the Levy Control Framework, which itself was the subject of a court challenge by UK solar developers yesterday.
She echoed calls from the Committee on Climate Change for the framework to be a variable rather than fixed cost and those from much of the renewables industry for further details of its calculations to be revealed.
The government has so far resisted calls for it to release more information regarding the framework and dismissed repeated freedom of information requests from the likes of the Solar Trade Association as “manifestly unreasonable”.
Featherstone concluded by arguing that cuts to the feed-in tariff contributed to a wider attitude at government-level that appeared to undermine renewables. “All those things indicate that there is no genuine commitment to the green economy, and a drastic undermining of investor confidence,” she said.
Labour’s Lord Grantchester, whilst agreeing with Featherstone that the government was guilty of “mishandling” the green economy, accused her of “opportunistic posturing” in pushing for the statutory instrument to be annulled. The Liberal Democrats have already moved to veto a number of government policies already this term, and has been criticised for doing so due to a perceived breaking of governmental regulations.
Grantchester did however pick fault at the government’s handling of the feed-in tariff in general. “Regrettably, the most damaging aspect of this SI is that it is happening at all. In 2011-12 the FITs were cut; a judicial review then reversed the cut, which the Government then reintroduced. Now, they are reviewing the whole scheme again. Business cannot be set up on the basis of a three-year policy time horizon,” he said.
Viscount Hanworth meanwhile said that the government’s energy policy was “in utter disarray”. “One can take no pleasure in their discomfort; the adverse effects will be felt by all of us in the immediate future and in the longer-term,” he added.
Support of the reset was unsurprisingly limited to the Conservative members, particularly Viscount Ridley and Lord Cavendish who labelled the FiT a “regressive transfer of money from the poor to the rich”.
Lord Bourne, a Conservative lord and energy minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, responded to the annulment motion by stating that if it were successful, his party would “have to consider closing the scheme altogether”.
He also dismissed allegations of government energy policy being driven by ideology rather than fact, and criticised members of the house that did not offer up alternatives to the new regime. “It was more, 'We don’t like subsidies either', but then no suggestion of how much the subsidy should be,” he said.
Lord Bourne did however repeat suggestions from DECC and energy minister Andrea Leadsom that the current feed-in tariff rates are not set in stone and could be amended if a significant adverse affect on deployment is recorded. “We will look again at the 10% degression and see whether another figure would be more appropriate. That seems entirely reasonable,” Bourne added.
After more than an hour of debate the motion was disagreed with 91 contents to 230 not-contents.