This year a crucial piece of legislation will come before Parliament – the Energy Bill, which will be key in deciding Britain’s future up to 2020 and beyond. In her speech to Parliament, the Queen promised a clean and secure energy future, which was fair to all. In the coming months, Friends of the Earth has a key role to play in making sure that the Government doesn’t listen to the vested interests of the nuclear power industry or make a dash for gas in a misguided attempt to drive down prices instead of focusing on sustainability, stability and a focus on renewable energy generation.
Indeed, action has already been taken to promote solar power, which is evident in the recently released draft of the Energy Bill. Extending the subsidies to home-owners is also proof of the Government’s favourable sentiments towards fulfilling their promise to be the greenest government ever, especially at the local level. After the shambles of last year and our successful challenging of the Government’s illegal cuts to Feed in Tariffs (FiTs), there now seems to be a more certain future for solar.
Continued stability, and a commitment to uphold the pledge of 22 gigawatts of solar power by 2020, will increase investor confidence in green energy, which is already one of the largest growth markets in the UK. On top of that, a guarantee on the profits of offshore wind-farm developments will aid the green industry, will create jobs, provide home-owners with cheaper bills and reduce our reliance on imports.
An important component of investor confidence is keeping FiTs stable to motivate investment. The current tariff reduction is proportional to the decreasing installation cost of PV (photovoltaic) solar panels, meaning a roughly equivalent return on investment as compared to a couple of years ago. The Government must now lay out a broad set of promises to prove to that PV installation works for community schemes and investors in the long-term. The recent attempts at deep cuts in FiTs has shaken confidence, and the Government must work hard to restore trust to encourage growth in a critical sector of the economy
However, the Energy Bill is still not green enough. Despite the pledges to green energy being welcomed by investors, the Bill isn’t firm or ambitious enough in its ecological commitments. Much like wind farms, nuclear power will also be receiving the ‘guaranteed profits’ pledge from the Government. Many utility firms have abandoned their nuclear plans, and the Government must follow suit if it wishes to deliver affordable prices. Nuclear power is an expensive, dangerous and short term solution, a relic of the Cold War. Furthermore, despite there being no plan for capturing gas emissions, the Government seems set on increasing this damaging and expensive fossil fuel. Most worryingly, the Government has yet to make a pledge to abolish coal or gas by 2030. This sort of vague short-termism undermines the Government’s commitment to be the greenest government ever.
There is still time, however. According to a YouGov poll, 85% of the British public wants clean energy, not harmful fossil fuels. This is the opportunity of a generation to revolutionise Britain’s green economy and establish a safe, reliable and consistent energy policy.