Apparent attempts by senior government figures to dismantle UK renewable energy commitments will prove “disastrous” to solar and other clean technologies, leading industry figures have warned.
An undercover film released yesterday by environmental body Greenpeace revealed the apparent extent to which the Chancellor George Osborne and other senior ministers and MPs are trying water down legally binding commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions through investment in low carbon energy generation.
Although those implicated in the film have denied its claims, renewable sector advocates say the impression it gives of divisions within the coalition government will “completely destroy” confidence in the industry.
In the secret recording, Lord Howell, Osborne’s father in law and a government energy adviser, suggested to the undercover reporter that Osborne was pushing Prime minister David Cameron to back away from the UK's green commitments. “The Prime Minister is not familiar with these issues, doesn’t understand them. Osborne of course is getting this message and is putting pressure on,” Howell said. "They're absurd targets, they're absurd."
And the senior Tory MP Peter Lilley, a known climate change sceptic, suggested that Osborne has been pushing for Conservative MPs who share his views to be given senior ministerial roles.
These include the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Energy Minister John Hayes, both new appointments in the recent ministerial reshuffle. Only after shortly being handed the energy brief, Hayes earned himself a slap-down from the Prime Minister and Energy Secretary Ed Davey for publicly calling for an end to onshore wind farms.
Lilley said that the Chancellor privately “regrets all the commitments”, referring to greenhouse emissions and renewable energy targets the Conservatives signed up to before the last general election.
Speaking to Solar Power Portal, Ray Noble, PV specialist for the Renewable Energy Association, said: “This will completely destroy confidence in the industry. The solar industry is already on its knees. Hearing incompetent MPs saying things like this to the press will undermine confidence for everyone – whether you’re a customer, installer, supplier or investor.”
Trade body RenewableUK said the Prime Minister needed to “get a grip” on energy policy.
Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith said: "The Energy Minister's comments risk undermining investor confidence, jeopardising much-needed renewable energy projects and the many thousands of jobs they would create throughout the UK.
“This is a deliberate attempt to recklessly re-write coalition policy just before the most significant government intervention in the energy markets for a generation – the publication of the Energy Bill later this month.”
Below is the footage shot by Greenpeace UK:
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