After an uncomfortable few weeks in office, the Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken of the need for the UK to embrace clean energy both domestically and globally as he provided opening remarks to delegates on the second day of the Clean Energy Ministerial being held in Central London.
Addressing energy ministers from 23 leading economies, Cameron said: “There are huge challenges facing governments across the world today, and one of the most important of all is how we meet our growing energy demands in a way that protects our planet for our children and grandchildren.
“With global demand forecast to increase by more than 40 percent in the next two decades, we urgently need a more diverse, cleaner mix of energy sources that will give us energy security without causing irreparable damage to the planet.
“Renewables are now the fastest growing energy source on the planet. And I am proud that Britain has played a leading role at the forefront of this green energy revolution.
“Britain has gone from virtually no capacity for renewables, to seeing them provide almost 10 percent of our total electricity needs last year. And we’ve added more capacity for renewables in the last two years than at any time in the last decade.”
Commenting on the Prime Minister’s speech, REA Chief Executive Gaynor Hartnell said: “Renewables account for 110,000 UK jobs, seven times more than David Cameron thinks. The sector's turnover last year was £12.5 billion. Of the low carbon energy sources that the Government is looking to bring forward under its Electricity Market Reform proposals, renewables are the most likely to succeed. They can be deployed more quickly, they are proven and they will need less subsidy.
“Renewables have extremely low running costs, but capital costs can be higher than other energy technologies. For that reason it is essential that the cost of financing is kept low. Stable policies build investor confidence and make projects more bankable. The ball is in the Government’s court to make that happen.”
Rhian Kelly, CBI Director for Business Environment, also welcomed Cameron’s speech, saying: “The Prime Minister’s intervention, underlining the economic and environmental potential of the green economy, will help to repair investor confidence following recent policy uncertainty. Major investment is needed from the private sector to decarbonise our energy infrastructure and create new jobs across the country. What we need now is clear ambition from government, greater consistency and to establish market conditions that will help build momentum.
Cameron then moved on to speak of his belief in the greatest challenge facing renewable development: “Our commitment and investment in renewable energy has helped to make renewable energy possible. Now we have a different challenge. We need to make it financially sustainable.”
Cameron outlined how better collaboration between Government and business will help drive down the cost of renewables in the future. However, those in the solar industry will again feel aggrieved by the PM’s remarks after delivering a 45 percent cost reduction over the last three years was met with swingeing cuts and restrictive legislation which have drastically reduced installation rates.
However, the Governmental perception of solar may be changing after a dedicated session to discussing the technology was held at Lancaster House yesterday. In attendance was Ray Noble, STA’s PV specialist. Although discussions were under Chatham House rules, Noble described the discussions as “very positive”, stating: “The STA has worked tirelessly to get the UK Government to appreciate solar has a major role to play in our energy future. We have consistently argued for high ambition for this technology. The discussions yesterday show that the important role of solar is recognised internationally, and that includes by the British Government.
Noble concluded: “After the struggle we've had to secure recognition for this sector, it was a very uplifting event. Solar has arrived.”