Community energy projects will play a much bigger role in the future energy landscape than Whitehall, Westminster and the renewables industry has expected, former energy secretary Ed Davey has claimed.
In an interview with community energy group Mongoose, which Davey joined as chairman earlier this year after losing his seat as MP for Kingston and Surbiton, he discussed the future of the renewables industry in the wake of proposed subsidy cuts and the possible evolution of the UK’s energy sector to more decentralised generation.
The effects of the proposed cuts on the industry have been much publicised, however Davey said that they were “all intentional by [chancellor George] Osborne” in order to stymie the growth of the sector as a challenger to gas and nuclear.
“I’d like to think we could have a rational debate but we have to remember this is all part of a rather dramatic shift in power and money between fossil fuels and low carbon, to be played out over the next two to three decades. So to get the deal renewables deserve, we mustn’t be naïve,” he said.
Instead Davey called upon the government to put into place a policy that invested heavily into R&D for renewable-related industries including storage, EVs and tidal power, and warned of a proposal mentioned in passing by his successor Amber Rudd last month relating to the possible redistribution of “system costs” associated with intermittent generators.
Community energy has found itself in Osborne’s crosshairs already this year having been made exempt from receiving EIS, SEIS and SITR tax relief under amendments to the finance bill. A potential legal challenge has been tabled by Community Energy England, but it is not yet clear whether HM Treasury responded to the letter before action during the allotted timeframe.
But despite the threats to the industry Davey said the community energy sector would prove to be “much bigger than Whitehall, Westminster and the wider industry currently expects” due to the expected migration towards distributed power generation.
He said he expected the community energy landscape to grow rapidly and that it was one of the principle reasons for him joining Mongoose.
“[The potential is] difficult to quantify but it’s already clear that distributed power is growing fast – and the collective element of that can only grow.
“But as I set out in the CE strategy I published at DECC, I see CE as far broader than power – for instance, I think it’s a natural fit when it comes to renewable heat. But CE can only grow and max out with proper political support – but the sector has to earn that.
“In harsher times, especially, the sector itself has to prove to DECC and HMT that it represents value for money,” he said.