Opposition MPs have accused the government of double standards in its energy policy, particularly in relation to differing levels of support offered to solar and nuclear power.
The suggestions were put to secretary of state Amber Rudd during this morning’s oral questions session which gave parliament the first opportunity for it to scrutinise the government’s new feed-in tariff regime since it was unveiled on 17 December 2015.
The secretary of state was quizzed over a number of topics relating to the solar industry and was forced to defend the cuts under a tough line of questioning by Labour MP and Shadow DECC minister Clive Lewis, who asked for a new year’s message for the 18,000 solar industry employees who stand to lose their jobs as a result of the cuts.
Rudd replied that the regime would still support circa 23,000 jobs and enable as many as 220,000 installations to be made. She also said it would be “unfair” for subsidies – paid for through levies added onto energy bills – to be used to support jobs in the industry.
It was followed by an equally tough question from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas who accused the government of double standards in its energy policy. While solar subsidies have been cut, nuclear subsidies have been increased and energy minister Andrea Leadsom remarked during the session of the need to support nuclear and jobs within that industry with subsidies.
Rudd however responded by accusing Lucas of using her “own facts” in the debate, a claim which the Green Party MP has since rebuked on social media.
Shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy, who yesterday confirmed she was staying in her position despite rumours linking her with another role as part of Labour’s ongoing reshuffle, sought to shed light on the returns offered to diesel generators under last month’s capacity market auction, rumoured to be as high as 40% in some cases.
The figures dwarf the 5% deemed acceptable for solar generators and Nandy quizzed Rudd over how much of this cost was being handed to bill payers despite the government’s long-standing message of protecting consumers at all costs. While Rudd initially rebuked the question, she did later confirm that £175 million of subsidy would be paid to fossil fuel generators under the CMA, but said she could not confirm the cost to tax payers.
SoS confirms that the £175m subsidy to polluting diesel generators will cost bill payers - but doesn't seem to know how much.— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) January 7, 2016
Meanwhile Rudd also suggested that it was the solar industry’s responsibility to ensure that the cost of solar installations comes down rather than the government’s. She insisted that while DECC was prepared to fight its corner on cases such as MIP and VAT, she said the department could not offer “too much for renewable subsidies” and rejected any interpretation that it was not prepared to support solar in general.