Vince Cable has provided more details over Government’s industrial strategy to breathe life back into the faltering UK economy. The Business Secretary already spoke of his desire to develop emerging technology, unlock finance, support key sectors, increase Government procurement and better develop supply chains. However, the renewables industry had expressed concerns that the green economy was slowly being removed from Government’s agenda.
Speaking ahead of his Industrial Strategy speech at Imperial College in London, Vince Cable said: “Government makes decisions every day that affect the British economy, but has for too long done this in an ad hoc way. Government needs to be more like business, by making strategic plans and sticking to them.
“I am setting out a clear and ambitious vision, a commitment far beyond the usual political timescale that will continue to bear fruit decades later. It will give our businesses certainty, allow them to make their own plans, and know that the full weight of Government is behind them. We will work in a strategic partnership with industry, focusing our support on specific sectors. This is our commitment to growth in action.”
In a paper published to coincide with Cable’s industrial strategy speech, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) published analysis which identified energy as one of three categories that Government will actively support, fostering strategic partnerships that are “likely to be highly beneficial to the growth agenda.”
A fuller industrial strategy for energy is expected to be published in early 2013.
The Renewable Energy Association’s (REA) Head of External Affairs, Leonie Greene, welcomed the news but stressed the importance of long-term and cross-party support, saying: “It is helpful that Vince Cable understands a successful approach to infrastructure investment requires a long-term perspective. The Olympics is a brilliant example to draw lessons from. It was supported by a cross-party consensus, something the renewables sector and the public would greatly benefit from, because certainty reduces costs.”
She added: “This is a step forward, but the Coalition Government could inspire the nation right now with a much bolder vision for jobs and growth right across the renewable energy sector. Given huge public support for renewables and the tremendous opportunities this sector opens up for the UK economy, it’s frustrating that parts of Government have been allowed to muffle an exciting agenda that should be shouted from the rooftops.”
The REA has called on Government to recognise the important role renewables can play in the UK’s economic recovery. A recent REA/Innovas report, ‘Made in Britain’, showed that the renewable energy sector and its associated supply chains turned over £12.5 billion in 2010/11.
REA Chief Executive, Gaynor Hartnell spoke of her desire to see more commitment and joined up thinking from Government: “Renewables can support a much bigger and broader vision for jobs and growth than we’ve seen so far from this Government, as Lord Deben, Chair of the Government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change, made plain this weekend. First Government needs to acknowledge that, and then we need a stable and effective policy framework to achieve it.”
She continued: “Instead of ramping up progress, Government is actually making the project development process unworkable for some technologies. The Coalition must focus not only on the tremendous benefits renewables have to offer the UK, but also on the overall framework and approach, which has become overly complex and debilitating.”
John Cridland, Director-General of the CBI, welcomed Vince Cable’s more pro-active approach to economic recovery, stating: “British business has been challenging Government to put in place firm foundations on which our companies can build their long-term futures and rebalance our economy
“The UK is a world leader in many sectors and if we are to secure significant growth in the decades to come, the Government must enable them to capitalise on their competitive advantages and stay ahead of international rivals.
“Politicians of all persuasions need a laser-like focus to provide a stable and supportive policy environment. Today’s commitment from the Business Secretary is a valuable first step on this critical path to future success.”
Whilst Cable’s speech provides a morsel of comfort for a beleaguered renewables industry, certain sections of the green economy–namely the solar industry– will remain skeptical of promises by Government for ‘commitment far beyond the usual political timescale’ after numerous policy changes have continually dogged industry’s long-term planning.
The Observer’s Political Editor, Toby Helm, took to twitter to warn that a political storm may well be brewing in Westminster over the perceived back-tracking on green policies. Helm wrote, “Big trouble brewing for PM and Chancellor midweek, on abandonment of green policies and ‘dash for gas’, I hear.” He added: “Global warming was biggest threat to mankind before election, for Cameron. Now being green threatens re-election and too costly so dumps it.”
The solar industry is still reeling from proposals set out by the Department of Energy and Climate Change that seek to restrict the level of support solar receives under the Renewable Obligation by 25 percent to just 1.5ROCs.