Rudd dismisses need for clean energy policy u-turn as post-COP21 pressure grows

Energy secretary Amber Rudd has dismissed the government’s need to conduct a u-turn on its cuts to clean energy policy following last week’s COP21 summit agreement in Paris.

Rudd, presenting the agreement to the House of Commons yesterday afternoon, hailed the work of her department in securing the “historic” agreement and said that she hoped the “political pressure” of the deal would be a “catalyst” for more clean energy developments.

But since the agreement was struck the Conservative government has come under increased pressure over its domestic approach to clean policies, particularly subsidies for renewable energy. Cuts to onshore wind and solar stand to prevent more deployment of the cheapest available renewables, despite the more ambitious Paris Pact likely to require additional deployment.

Industry commenters have poured additional scorn over the government’s commitment to renewables and yesterday Rudd repeated the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s line that it will not jeopardise security of supply or put additional charges onto household bills to support renewables.

“We will only be able to truly tackle climate change if we find technology that is clean and that is cheap,” she said. Rudd added her belief that the decision to phase out coal by 2025 had added to the momentum of the summit.

However opposition politicians derided her stance and accused Rudd’s department of attacking the cheapest clean energy options.

Shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy said that it was “difficult to see the consistency” behind DECC’s recent policy decisions and questioned Rudd on whether or not they would be revised in light of the summit’s agreement and whether or not support would be raised in order to meet the more ambitious 2030 targets.

But Rudd reacted angrily to Nandy’s line of questioning. She said that any attempt to “characterise us [the Tories] as having anything against renewables was not true at all” and insisted that the government must deliver value for money.

The Scottish National Party’s Callum McCaig was particularly damning, stating his belief that “we have two secretaries of state” – one for the global stage and another domestically that was guilty of an “appalling betrayal of renewables”. He also said that Rudd had delivered “excuse after excuse after excuse” for holding back the UK from what he labelled a “global green revolution”.

McCaig was supported by fellow SNP MP and chairman of the ECC select committee Angus MacNeil who questioned Rudd on what – if anything – would change at DECC in light of the Paris agreement.

Rudd said she “absolutely refuted” McCaig’s claims and added that the government could “not take any risk at all with energy security”. In response to questions regarding the inconsistency of the UK’s approach to clean energy with binding targets under the Paris Act, she said “each country delivers in its own way. That’s what the UK has done and will continue to do”.

She did however add that her department would be making an announcement on the outcome of the feed-in tariff consultation “shortly”, seemingly quelling suggestions that it could be postponed until the New Year following recent changes to the VAT and MIP circumstances.

With parliament rising for Christmas recess on Thursday (17 December) and Amber Rudd before the ECC select committee on Wednesday morning (16 December) – the secretary of state has already been reprimanded once by the chair for revealing major policy changes shortly after a select committee hearing – time is running out for the department to make its big reveal.