In a bid to ensure the UK Government provides clear and consistent leadership on renewable energy a host of signatories, lead by the Renewable Energy Association (REA), have written to the Prime Minister, David Cameron and Deputy PM, Nick Clegg asking that the Treasury actively supports departments charged with meeting the legally-binding renewable energy targets, and delivering green growth and jobs.
The letter follows growing concerns about the complexity of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s policy framework and a series of interventions by the Treasury, which have left industry players concerned about Government’s objectives.
The move to go to the Prime Minister directly comes just weeks after the Renewables Obligation (ROCs) banding announcement was delayed for solar, opening yet more consultations and prompting further uncertainty.
“The decision [to delay the ROC announcement] does not set out the support levels to 2017 for all renewable power technologies as expected, but leaves key technologies with only one year’s certainty, or less,” the letter explains.
“Eighteen months of consultation on RO support and Electricity Market Reform (EMR) offered plenty of opportunity for departmental differences to be resolved in timely fashion. Instead we have a confused energy policy landscape, following Treasury's interventions, and fundamental questions still need to be answered under EMR.”
The letter goes on to describe that the constant reviews and policy uncertainty present in the UK renewables market deter investment and risk adding to costs which will in turn lessen the chances of encouraging green jobs and reaching the legally-binding carbon targets.
“We urge you to ensure the Treasury systematically and publicly appreciates the long-term benefits of investment in renewable energy, not just the short-term costs,” the letter continues.
“We also urge you to expedite clarity on support levels for investors in all renewable power technologies under the RO, and under EMR.
“Finally, we seek your assurance that the Coalition Government is committed to the popular and successful feed-in tariff scheme.”
Commenting on the situation, Martin Wright, Chair of the REA, said: “The decisions for renewable power were late and raised more questions than they answered. Renewables must not be treated like a political football, kicked between DECC and Treasury. Government shouldn’t squander this once in a generation opportunity to transform our energy system into one fit for the future, with all the jobs and inward investment this will bring.
“It’s a measure of our frustration with the pace of policy making and its lack of direction, that we are writing this open letter to the Prime Minister and Deputy PM. The UK is lagging behind virtually all other countries on renewable energy. This Government needs to start living up to its Coalition Agreement, and its promise to be the greenest ever.”
REA Chief Executive Gaynor Hartnell said: “The reasons for doing renewables have evolved over the decades. Right now we are on the cusp of pure economics being the main driver. Even the least developed renewable technologies are on a par with carbon capture and storage and nuclear power, and in fact most renewables are significantly cheaper. Our leaders must see the sense in this, and ensure the UK is not left behind.”
Meanwhile David Owen, CEO of Solar Media, who has signed the letter, said: “It is time that our “joined up” Government led by Cameron and Clegg finally comes to the table and pushes the green growth achievable through renewables deployment.”
“Further subsidising the fossil fuel industry is regressive and risks marginalising the UK economy for a generation.”
Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals and Sustainability at the Co-operative Group, who also signed the letter, commented: “In many ways, the current situation is the worst of all worlds. Investors continue to have no clarity as to whether the Government has any real appetite for renewables – and are left to interpret the various leaks and letters that pass across the back-benches. There is a tremendous willingness in the private sector to take forward the low carbon economy, but we need the Government to act in a fair and consistent manner.”
The letter has been signed by signatories including investors Novusmodus and Climate Change Capital, the TUC’s Frances O’Grady, the University and College Union, the NFU, environmentalist Tony Juniper and major companies npower renewables and Fred Olsen as well as several industry associations including the REA, Solar Trade Association (STA), the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association and the Country Land and Business Association.
The UK solar industry has experienced significant turbulence since its inception in 2010, with sharp and unexpected feed-in tariff cuts, policy backtracking and a lack of general Governmental support. It is hoped that by prompting the Prime Minister to act on industry’s behalf, the future for renewables will be secured and the UK’s 2020 targets will be met.
The letter can be read in full here.