Post date: Monday, 6th February 2012

LibDems battle for green sector against Tory demands for cuts

Ed Davey

“My priorities are very simple: green jobs, green growth and getting the best deal for energy bill payers," said Ed Davey.

Ed Davey, the new energy and climate change secretary, has joined the fight for Britain's low carbon industries, arguing that on both the national and the international stage they can provide an engine for British economic growth.

Speaking on the first day of his new job, he said that “By focusing on the low carbon industries of the future we can rebalance our economy, thereby reducing our dependence on the City of London on the one hand, and on oil and gas imports from unstable parts of the world on the other".

The LibDem side of the coalition is determined to keep bolstering their argument within Government about the economic value of supporting the green sector.

Wind subsidy backlash

This follows further reports over the weekend that Number Ten is considering "toning down" the green aspects of the Coalition's work, following a call by 101 Tory MPs to slash subsidies for onshore wind farms paid under the Renewables Obligation (RO).

Niall Stuart, director of trade body Scottish Renewables, described these Tories’ views as “absolute nonsense”.

“These proposals would jeopardise not just progress towards our renewable energy and climate change targets, but would also threaten billions of pounds of investment and thousands of jobs across the UK,” he said.

Onshore wind farms are due to have their subsidies cut by 10% anyway, under the new RO rules.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change estimates that the entire ROC policy (not just onshore wind) adds £26 to each household's annual electricity bill.

The MPs also want changes to the wording of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), currently being finalised, to increase the power of local people to defeat planning applications for new onshore wind farms by forcing planning authorities to take the beauty of the landscape into account when making their decisions.

In a statement today, Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said: “I want the UK to be the number one destination for green investment. We’re in this race to win it.”

Citing last year's record-breaking global investment in renewables, which "outstripped the cash piled into fossil fuels," Mr Clegg stated that our main competitors are now "China, India, Korea, Brazil", who are "serious contenders for that capital".

“The savviest states understand that going for growth means going green," he said. "Low-carbon markets are the next frontier in the battle for global pre-eminence."

“We have every reason to be confident," he continued. "The combination of enviable wind, wave and tidal power, a world-beating research base and a proud history of engineering give the UK a clear competitive edge.

"So we’re already in pole position. But the reality is: we need to sharpen our elbows if we want to stay ahead."

Mr Davey said that, as a lifelong environmental campaigner, he understood this message. “My priorities are very simple: green jobs, green growth and getting the best deal for energy bill payers."

He underscored that he would continue the work of his predecessor, Chris Huhne. “There may have been a change at the helm, but there'll be no change in direction or ambition,” he said.

Offshore wind developers promise more British jobs

DECC is determined to push this message, and in a statement today listed three measures it is taking that support the British economy.

Energy minister Charles Hendry is today co-chairing a meeting of the Offshore Wind Developers’ Forum, at which wind farm developers are expected to confirm that they will source at least half of the content of future wind farms from uK manufacturers, helping to support the UK economy.

Having started from a low base, there is already growth in the proportion of UK content in offshore wind. For example, Robin Rigg windfarm has a UK content of 32%.

Last week, engineering firm David Brown announced that it had secured a major new contract to build gearboxes for Samsung.

In December, Siemens outlined plans to construct a turbine manufacturing plant in Hull, and last month the Port of Sheerness lodged a planning application for factories proposed by Vestas.

Gamesa have also announced their intention to make the UK the main focus of their worldwide offshore wind business.

Community energy funds announced

Mr Davey began his work in post today by joining deputy prime minister Nick Clegg on a visit to the Building Research Establishment’s Innovation Park near Watford, a testing site for energy efficient homes, where they are highlighting the value of green policies in stimulating jobs in the construction sector.

He also announced that a further 155 community energy projects are to receive a share of the £5.1m of funding under Phase 2 of the Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF).

Mr Davey said: “These grants are designed to nurture the ideas and enthusiasm of communities up and down the country who want to cut energy use, cut emissions and save money”.

Story: David Thorpe, News Editor

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