Prime minister tells leaders at a world energy summit that the UK government has achieved its aim. Do you agree?
The government has achieved its aim of being the “greenest ever”, David Cameron has said on, in his first significant remarks on the environment since reaching office.
“When I became prime minister I said I would aim to have the greenest government ever and this is exactly what we have,” he told energy ministers from the world’s leading nations at a summit in London.
Cameron said he “passionately believed” the growth of renewable energy was vital to the UK’s future. “I believe renewable energy can be among our cheapest energy sources within years not decades,” he said. But he warned: “We need to make it financially sustainable.”
The intervention was much anticipated after repeated negative remarks from George Osborne last year that “endless social and environmental goals” were a burden on business.
Cameron said: “Renewables are now the fastest growing energy source on the planet and I am proud that Britain has played a leading role at the forefront of this green energy revolution. Renewable energy is not just good for our environment but good business too.” He said renewable energy had a “vital part to play”, alongside “nuclear energy, cleaner coal, oil and gas – including shale gas – and carbon capture and storage.”
But, citing the pressure high gas prices were placing on businesses and households, he added: “We have to get costs [of renewables] down. We don’t just need green energy, we need cheaper energy too.” Apparently alluding to the changes to subsidies for solar power which the industry claims has sapped confidence and led to 6,000 lost jobs, Cameron said: “When we have made a commitment to a project, we will always honour it in full.”
But business groups and environmental campaigners labelled the seven minutes of remarks a “failure of leadership”, a “damp squib” and accused him of “taking a leaf out of the chancellor’s ‘green agenda is a burden’ book.”
“The prime minister could have sent a clear message that the UK is open for green business and sent a clear signal to investors, especially after two years of silence,” said Mark Kenber, chief executive of the Climate Group. “He did not. Instead he effectively reiterated the false dichotomy between ‘non-affordable’ renewables and ‘affordable’ fossil fuels. Today the PM sided with those in his government that feel that the green agenda is a ‘burden’. It is not only a failure of leadership, it is nothing short of neglect of Britain’s economy and future.”
David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, which took Cameron on his “husky-hugging” trip to the Arctic in 2006, said: “We were led to expect a keynote speech, only for it to be suddenly downgraded; what we got today was a damp squib.”
Caroline Flint, Labour’s shadow energy and climate change secretary said: “Investment in clean energy has fallen, meaning that jobs and growth that should be coming to this country are now going overseas. The Clean Energy Ministerial, with businesses and investors flying in from all over the world, was the perfect opportunity to bring new jobs and industries to the UK. The fact that Cameron can’t even be bothered to make a proper speech shows the government has missed yet another open goal.”
But Rhian Kelly, director for business environment at the CBI, said: “The prime minister’s intervention, underlining the economic and environmental potential of the green economy, will help to repair investor confidence following recent policy uncertainty.”
Cameron cited a series of new announcements, including the first investments made by the green investment bank – a collaboration of renewable companies called Norstec to maximise the use of wind energy from the North Sea – and research funding to bring down the cost of offshore wind. He also mentioned recent investments in wind and biomass plants totalling £350m.
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat energy and climate change secretary, said: “Over time as policies are rolled out and experienced I think people really will credit this government with being greenest ever. You can see PM’s personal commitment to this.” A recent poll found that just 2% of the public thought Cameron was leading the greenest government ever.
Craig Bennett, policy and campaigns director at Friends of the Earth, said: “The PM is right to recognise the necessity of developing a cleaner future, but he must show real leadership. It’s time Cameron gave us chapter and verse for achieving a low-carbon economy, not just a few notes in the margin. Over 85% of the public want the UK to develop our huge renewable power potential.”
“There is a tendency to focus on the costs of renewables as opposed to the benefits,” said Martin Wright, chairman of the Renewable Energy Association. “Renewables give us energy independence, they are totally sustainable and over the long term they will provide low cost energy and, above all, price stability. They represent a tremendous business opportunity now.”
- Green energy vital, says David Cameron (independent.co.uk)
- David Cameron commits to wind farms (telegraph.co.uk)
- Cameron to praise Britain’s leadership over renewable energy (bfreenews.com)
- Green energy ‘must be affordable’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Cameron’s missed opportunity to create Green jobs and lower energy bills (liberalconspiracy.org)
- ‘Hypocrite’ … ? British Prime Minister to host clean energy summit (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Green energy ‘cheap within years’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Green energy pledge from Cameron (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Cameron’s downgrading of environment policy bodes ill for the future (leftfootforward.org)
- Could ‘floating wind turbines’ solve UK’s energy crisis? (telegraph.co.uk)
The new technology could allow Britain to harness the consistently higher wind speeds available over deeper water
Before this week’s clean-energy meeting of ministers from 23 countries in London, the government announced it will collaborate with the US in developing wind technology to generate power in deep waters that are currently off-limits to conventional turbines.
In order to exploit the UK’s huge wind resource, which accounts for about one-third of Europe’s offshore wind potential, new technology is needed to access waters between 60 and 100 metres deep: too deep for turbines fixed to the seabed, but where wind speeds are consistently higher.
It is hoped that developing the technology will increase the UK’s potential for offshore wind power, particularly after 2020, by which time many shallower sites will have been developed.
The government believes it could also reduce the current high cost of offshore wind, cutting the expense of seabed foundations and allowing repairs on floating wind platforms to be carried out in port rather than out at sea.
The energy secretary, Ed Davey, said: “Britain has more wind turbines installed around its shores than any other country in the world, and our market is rated year after year as the most attractive market among investors. Offshore wind is critical for the UK’s energy future, and there is big interest around the world in what we’re doing.
“The UK and US are both making funding available for this technology, and we’re determined to work together to capitalise on this shared intent.”
The Energy Technologies Institute is commissioning a £25m offshore wind floating system demonstrator, which will require the chosen participants to produce an offshore wind turbine that can generate 5MW to 7MW by 2016. The project could be demonstrated off the Cornish coast at the WaveHub site.
In the US, four offshore projects are being backed by the Department of Energy, potentially including a floating wind demonstration.
Norway already has a full-scale demonstration of a floating wind turbine, while a similar project is underway off Portugal.
This week’s Clean Energy Ministerial will be co-chaired by Davey and his US energy counterpart, Steven Chu. The two countries are signing a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on a series of areas including power generation, energy efficiency and transmission.
- UK and US to develop floating turbines (scotsman.com)
- Could ‘floating wind turbines’ solve UK’s energy crisis? (telegraph.co.uk)
- First floating wind turbine buoyed off Norway (news.cnet.com)
- Helium-filled floating wind turbine, renewable energy with style (engadget.com)
- Wind power surges as custom ships cut costs (bangordailynews.com)
- New York Maps Viable Offshore Wind Power (bfreenews.com)
- Japan Replaces Nuclear With Wind Power (solarfeeds.com)
- European offshore wind setting records in 2010 (news.cnet.com)
An interesting development in the British coalition – campaigning that it is ‘greener than green’, yet cutting funds – begs the question : What is David Cameron really pro-environment?
From The Independent on Sunday : David Cameron’s attack on solar power subsidy will destroy the industry, say critics, as London prepares for international conference
The third Clean Energy Ministerial conference, featuring more than 20 ministers from the world’s leading and emerging economies, will take place in London later this month in what No 10 hopes will position the UK as a global leader in renewable power and build on the Prime Minister’s claim to lead the “greenest government ever”.
The conference will take place just weeks after the introduction of a new feed-in tariff for solar power generation in the UK, which campaigners warn will kill off the booming sector, with 5,000 job losses.
Last month, the Government lost a Supreme Court battle over its failure to consult on halving the subsidy for solar power from 43.3p to 21p per hour in December, allowing homeowners and businesses to carry on benefiting from the old rate until this month. But from 1 April, solar power carries the new 21p rate and further cuts to the subsidy are planned.
Howard Johns, spokesman for the Cut Don’t Kill campaign, said: “The industry is already starting to stagnate, but this passing of the 21p mark is a brutal moment.
“People from the industry have stopped being invited to meetings with ministers. It seems highly hypocritical for David Cameron to host a summit on clean energy while presiding over this cut.”
In an apparent snub to the British solar power industry, the Government has not invited anyone from the sector to the conference, which will take place at Lancaster House, London, on 25-26 April. Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, will host the event alongside his US counterpart, Steven Chu.
But Solar Century, one of the largest UK solar firms, has been invited to attend by Mr Chu’s department.
The meeting is the third annual Clean Energy Ministerial, with 23 nations taking part, including the US, China and India. The 23 nations account for 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 90 per cent of investment in clean energy. The aim of the conference is to improve collaboration between nations on global projects, as well as driving “public-private engagement to support clean energy deployment”.
Last year The IoS published an article about opposition to the subsidy cuts, with a coalition of 55 individuals and groups warning the Prime Minister will “strangle at birth” Britain’s booming solar panel industry by halving the tariff overnight.
The High Court ruled it was unlawful to cut the subsidy without warning. Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling, and anyone who generates electricity through solar panels was able to claim the higher subsidy to the end of March.
Ministers have blamed the popularity of the feed-in tariff on their decision to cut the rate, insisting that it was too expensive to sustain.
Downing Street and the Department for Energy and Climate Change declined to comment yesterday.
- 80% of UK Farms Want Solar Roofs By 2013 (evoenergy.co.uk)
- Solar power to generate majority of electricity by 2060 (evoenergy.co.uk)
- Will Austerity Derail Europe’s Clean-Energy Movement? (time.com)
- 2010 Pro-Solar Billboard Goes Viral Two Years Later (treehugger.com)
- The Guardian reports on the Feed-in Tariff (evoenergy.co.uk)