When I became Prime Minister, I said that Britain would have the greenest government ever. And that is exactly what we have.” The PM made three other contestable claims about the green economy in his speech to the Clean Energy Ministerial today in London: “honoring commitments”, the high cost of renewable energy, and his government’s support for carbon capture. As few as 2% of the British public believe that David Cameron has kept his promise, according to a YouGov poll in mid-March 2012. The day after the UK formerly fell back into recession, it appears that the seven-minute, 1,288 word delivery seemed more intent on defending reputation than setting the renewables industry to the task of leading the UK out of recession (it expanded by over 10% last year). As to the contestable claims -
When we have a made a commitment to a project we will always honour it in full: the widely-reported difficulties with government support for solar power under the Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) have sapped confidence and jobs. As the Renewable Energy Association (REA) commented, two years in to the new government, when it has been vital to sustain momentum, we are still waiting for key parts of the policy framework. The REA wants the Government to take more care to understand the many economic benefits of renewable energy investment, including jobs. Renewables account for 110,000 UK jobs, seven times more than David Cameron thinks.
Renewable energy is still relatively expensive. ..we need to get costs down: renewable energy added £20 to household energy bills in 2011. During 2011 average energy bills rose £170. Nuclear decommissioning and waste management cost taxpayers £7 billion in 2010. A recent special report by The Economist entitled ‘the Dream that Failed’ stated that ‘nuclear has been getting more expensive whereas renewables are getting cheaper.’ Analysis by Ofgem and the Committee on Climate Change shows these bill increases were overwhelmingly due to fossil fuel price rises.
A pioneering Carbon Capture and Storage programme: the government cancelled the UK’s pioneering CCS project last October. As the TUC pointed out in its Roadmap for Coal (2012), “Current policy aims to deliver the first CCS plant by around 2016, with the other three plants coming on stream by 2018. The total CCS capacity envisaged under the demonstration proposals is only 1.6 GW, (compared to the total UK capacity of 28 GW). There is serious concern that slippage to the above dates will result in a delay to the CCS deployment programme.”
This will result in coal burn in existing power stations ceasing before new CCS plants are ready to replace them, and as a result will cause the UK to lose all its coal production and infrastructure capacity.
At a time of recession, when higher gas prices are leaving families and businesses struggling with their energy bills, the PM seems to have missed an opportunity to set out the green economy as answers to these pressing domestic issues.