Green policy cut and thrust
A key point from the Labour leader’s speech today echoes the key TUC call – a million green jobs created through the shift to a low carbon economy. The route Miliband proposed is decarbonising the UK’s power sector by 2030. This looks like a step further than even envisaged by the Committee on Climate Change for 2030. It cements Labour’s support for a 2030 carbon target for the Energy Bill, which should spur the UK’s weak supply chains in new technologies like wind turbines and carbon capture technology for coal and gas. But Energy UK said the proposed freezing energy bills to 2017 would undermine competition and “send a clear message to overseas investors that the UK is closed for business.” But why?
It’s not clear why this move would “make the prospect of energy shortages a reality,” a point echoed by the CBI. And energy unions and the TUC will want clarity on the role of clean tech like carbon capture for coal and gas. But the Energy Bill will be in law in 2015, so the utilities and project developers will be negotiating massive new energy contracts with government – worth at least £110bn by 2020. That’s double the current annual rate of energy infrastructure investment. Utilities and project developers well know what’s on the table:
- The amount and duration of the feed in tariff the government would settle for to stimulate investment.
- The length of the contracts developers need.
- Regional development support for supply chain investment.
- The level of the carbon price out to 2030.
- The scale of government’s compensation packages meant for our energy intensive industries, like steel, cement, glass, ceramics. Whilst a welcome start, they omit whole sectors and compare poorly with the backing offered by our main competitors in Europe, notable Germany.
And of course, one the major issues deterringsupply chain investors is now settled – the commitment to a truly long term, low carbon energy strategy.
The utility SSE made a fair point today: “The Labour Party should put policy costs into general taxation, taking them off energy bills. This would wipe £110 off the average person’s bill and shift the cost away from those who can’t afford to pay and on to those who can.”Currently, consumers will foot much of the £110bn bill through a levy on energy bills. For domestic consumers, this has always been a regressive form of taxation.
Caroline Flint, the shadow energy secretary, also promised Labour would create a new dedicated Energy Security Board “to identify our energy needs, secure investment for the future and keep the lights on.” She had earlier questioned the role of shale gas fracking in meeting our energy needs.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is busy drafting its new report on climate science. Miliband remarked today: “In 20 years’ time our children will ask if we were the last generation not to get climate change or the first to get it?”
Yet, yesterday in Balcombe, to a protester who took to the roof of a van parked across the access road to Cuadrilla’s fracking site, all of this policy cut and thrust perhaps seemed to be on another planet.