Some contrasts can be very appealing. Salt and caramel for example. Others, less so.
While US vice president Joe Biden was sweetening the deal for the US solar industry at a conference in California, the UK has been salting the earth of its fertile solar sector.
Yes it’s sunnier in Tucson than Torquay but the US industry has been built without direct subsidy. Tax credits yes. Support for R&D and getting start-ups off the ground, but no 'money in your pocket' subsidy.
To be honest though, Biden and Obama's latest overture to solar has been painful to watch because of the fundamental assumptions the two respective governments are, publicly at least, putting out across the airwaves.
“Some of the most deep-pocketed special interests that have lobbied for years for fossil fuels are now saying let’s stop it, lets’ take away consumer choice, let’s stifle the market. Isn’t it amazing?” Biden said.
He specifically questioned the Koch brothers, the multi-billionaire industrialists that some expect to spend more at the next US election than either official campaign.
He went on to herald the imminent arrival of solar as a mainstream energy source.
“It’s actually at our fingertips; it’s within our reach, you can almost taste it. You can feel it,” he said. “But we also know there are some real challenges. We know the private sector can only thrive where they have certainty in the investor environment, where there is free and fair competition, where intellectual property is protected, where trade rules are followed.”
In the UK, E&Y just bumped the country from its top ten renewable energy investment rankings. The first time it has ranked that low in the 12 years of the index. E&Y warned of an “exodus of energy investors”.
The industry has been subject to more reversals than a driving instructor. The consultation process has been immaculately timed to limit input and reduce opportunities for debate. Announcements at 17:01 in the run up to Bank Holiday weekends have also served to chip away at the relationship between DECC and the industry.
It's time to start again. The loss of trust and absence of respect is not productive but the ball is in DECC's court. Talk to the wider industry, don't dismiss job cuts.
There's no point raking up the Levy Control Framework (LCF) at this stage. Of course this cap could be increased but it won't. What is needed is an entirely new means to support, not subsidise, solar in the UK. Which ever strings have been pulled by major fossil fuel interest groups in the UK (how's your father-in-law, Mr Osborne?) they will be pulling without resistance if the subsidies can be removed from the equation.
All that is needed is DECC to turn this sham consultation into an actual one.
Tax breaks, fighting the VAT hike Brussels has handed down to low carbon goods, revisiting the speed of FiT cuts, asking the Green Investment Bank to take the edge off tight financing…
The options are numerous. But nothing will happen without a conversation.
Nobody in the UK expects Osborne to stand at a podium and denounce special interest groups backed by the fossil fuel industry. But a willingness from the government to simply listen to the solar industry would be a welcome contrast to the current preference for wilfully ignorant policy deconstruction.