The right message

In the second quarter of 2015, renewables generated more than a quarter of the UK’s electricity, beating coal and nuclear. But the Government’s position on clean energy is still somewhat unclear

With recent new statistics from RenewableUK showing the increasingly fundamental role that renewable energy is playing in generating electricity for British homes, offices and factories, some industry players are disappointed with the mixed messages from Government on whether it supports clean energy.

In September the government imposed a new levy on renewable energy companies, cut renewable energy subsidies for onshore wind, and scrapped the requirement on builders to develop zero-carbon homes.

Juliet Davenport, Chief Executive of the UK renewable energy company Good Energy thinks the recent changes are a bad news for the UK. “With a record-breaking 22 per cent of the UK’s electricity coming from renewable sources at the start of 2015, Britain has seen significant strides in the right direction. However, recent changes in policy feel like a backwards step, and there is a need for a clear policy framework for the future to ensure that businesses are able to play a their role in delivering solutions,” she said.

And as Mark Worcester, Director of Turley added, planning permission for new wind energy developments has also been denied: “The UK may have to rely on emergency measures toensure we don’t lose power this winter, but in mid-September the Government refused permission for over 1.3GW of on- and offshore wind energy development,” he said, adding: “Taken together with proposals to end key subsidy schemes, this has seen the UK drop out of the top ten in the influential Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECA) with 23 projects totalling 2.3GW of potential energy generation publically abandoned.”

This is the first time the UK has dropped out of the top ten since the RECA Index began 12 years ago, and as RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith explained, it shows that that investor confidence is being hit. “Investors are saying that Government has not set out a clear energy policy and don’t see the UK delivering decarbonisation at lowest cost, based on actions taken so far. The biggest worry for investors is that of an investment hiatus. Industry is ahead of Government in the need to protect the consumer while keeping the lights on and tackling climate change. Onshore wind is already the lowestcost low carbon option and offshore wind is ahead of target in its cost reduction efforts. But without long-term clarity, projects will be delayed, investment will go elsewhere and consumer savings will be lost.”

Thankfully, it isn’t all doom and gloom for onshore wind – in early September, Rossendale and Rochdale Borough Councils resolved to grant planning permission for an expansion of Scout Moor Wind Farm in Lancashire. The development by Scout Moor Wind Farm Expansion Limited (SML) comprises 16 additional turbines; associated infrastructure and a plan to restore and manage over 900 hectares of badly degraded peat moorland during the operational lifetime of the development. When completed it will be the largest on-shore wind farm in England.

The scheme has been the subject of extensive public consultation since 2011 and will generate renewable energy to meet the annual needs of up to 22,000 homes. SML is a joint venture between Peel Energy and United Utilities. Turley’s Mark Worcester led the planning application and he noted that the company went to great lengths in providing opportunities for the local community and other stakeholders to influence the proposals and shows what can be achieved through genuine collaboration. Mark also explained why continuing to invest in renewable energy is so critical to the UK: “It is important that we do not lose sight of the continuing need for a mix of sources of energy generation if we are to achieve greater national energy security in the short, medium and long term,” he said.

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Maria McCaffery agreed, as she added: “As the transition to clean electricity continues apace, we’d welcome clearer signals from Government that it’s backing the installation of vital new projects. So far, we’ve had a series of disappointing announcements from Ministers since May, which unfortunately betray a lack of positive ambition at the heart of Government. If Ministers want to see good renewables statistics continuing into the years ahead, they have to knuckle down, listen to the high level of public support we enjoy, and start making positive announcements on wind, wave and tidal energy.”

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