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Energy round-up: taking a wrong turn

Energy round-up: taking a wrong turn


Remember Energy Secretary Amber Rudd declaring herself as a “Thatcherite when it comes to climate change”?

Many observers, us included, took this as a positive sign that she was serious about taking action. But recent changes to UK energy and climate policy tell a different story, despite the pre-election pledge all three major parties made to act on climate change.

Leading green groups have already expressed grave concern over recent policy changes.

So what’s happened?

1. Subsidies for wind and solar power have been scrapped: according to Amber Rudd, wind and solar can prosper in the UK without subsidy, a claim refuted by campaigners, academics and the industry. Subsidies should of course be removed once industries are profitable, but we simply haven’t reached that point yet. In axing support now, the government risks undoing years of effort and further delaying the prospect of a 100% renewable UK.

2. Increased taxes for low carbon energy: to make matters worse, we’re now charging the climate change levy on all energy generation, including renewables - a glaring contradiction in terms. The climate levy was intended to bridge the gap between the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which undervalues the cost of carbon, and the actual cost. It makes no sense to levy this polluter-pays levy on those who don’t pollute.

3. A U-turn on fracking: fracking has been a contentious issue for some time. While the public’s support has fallen to record lows (read more on this on our blog) the government still seems set on “delivering shale”, even allowing drilling under national parks.

It’s not just the supply of green energy that has been affected. Ambitious flagship policies such as the zero carbon homes policy and the green deal, aimed at lowering demand for energy, have taken a hit too.

Things could be very different. Elsewhere, other countries are starting to reap the benefits of their green policies.

The Netherlands’ commitment to solar has led to a solar panel market boom, while France has announced some ambitious measures as the Paris conference approaches, including the extension of a clean energy tax and a law raising the CO2 tax to €100/t by 2030.