MPs slam ‘ideological’ solar cuts during Energy Bill second reading

MPs have poured scrutiny over government cuts to solar subsidies during yesterday’s second reading of the new Energy Bill.

The bill continued its ascent through parliament yesterday evening but it was not without cricitism. Large numbers of opposition MPs sought to pick fault in the legislation, particularly shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy who labelled changes to renewables subsidies as “yet another example of the government chopping and changing their energy policy to the detriment of investment in jobs, growth and our energy security”.

Sunderland East MP Julie Elliot also slammed facets of the bill, claiming that the impact on businesses following the announcement of the cuts had been “dramatic”.

Elliot spoke of how uncertainty over subsidies had caused international vehicle manufacturer Nissan to shelve plans to extend renewable energy projects at its Sunderland facility which would have contributed significantly towards the site’s self generation.

While there is now substantial doubt over whether or not an extension to Nissan’s onshore wind farm will go ahead, there has been no indication that plans for a 4.8MW solar array, which went through planning in July last year, have been affected.

Elliot continued to remark that many people she had spoken to had been left frustrated by “such confused and counterproductive policy making”, adding: “…government policy has created a ‘stop-start investment profile’ which has hindered cost reduction and industry development. This has been compounded by retrospective changes, like the one to the renewables obligation in this bill.”

Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, accused the government of an “inconsistent” approach and said policy decisions were being taken ideologically. “[The government is] stripping support for clean energy—for the cheapest energy we have—just when it is on the verge of reaching parity with non-renewables, while announcing new subsidies for the most expensive forms of energy. That is not about a fair market, but about ideology,” he said.

Energy minister Andrea Leadsom defended the bill and the government’s track record on clean energy, arguing that the UK had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 15% since 2010, representing the biggest reduction in a single parliament.

“We are over-delivering against our first three carbon budgets, and according to the Climate Action Network, the UK is the second best country in the world for tackling climate change, second only to Denmark. This Government have done so much,” Leadsom added.

The bill will now receive a third reading before transferring to the House of Lords, after which it will then be granted royal ascent and come into law.