Secretary Huhne Looks At Renewables Future

UK – Energy Secretary Chris Huhne defended the nation’s renewable energy industries yesterday during a keynote speech at RenewableUK’s annual conference in Manchester.

According to Mr Huhne, just this year, there have been approximately 9,000 jobs created and £1.7 billion invested in the UK renewables sector.

Mr Huhne sais: “Last year, global investment in renewable energy rose by 32% to $211 billion. And $142 billion of that was new financial investment, which excludes government and corporate R&D.

“We subsidise renewables to bring on deployment and reduce costs. And we’ve seen some remarkable successes: the cost of solar energy just keeps on tumbling.

“Right now, support for renewable energy costs the average household less than sixpence a day. But decades of underinvestment in energy efficiency and reliance on fossil fuels costs us much, much more.

“About half of the average household bill goes on wholesale gas and electricity costs. These costs are highly volatile, and as Ofgem make clear, the higher gas price is the real reason bills have been going up over the past eight years.

“That is why we need a flexible energy portfolio.”

The speech came after the government recently announced plans to cut subsidies for biomass and hydro power. There are also indications that there will be cuts to the feed-in-tariff, which some fear could deflate the residential solar market.

Speaking on what the UK could do to improve the country’s global position as a renewable energy provider Secretary Huhne said: “We have a blossoming low-carbon goods and services sector, which seems to be thriving even in tough times.

“But China leads the world in solar photovoltaic panel production; Germany on energy efficient housing design.

“We’re missing a trick unless we start supporting low-carbon manufacturing here in Britain – and grow the green supply chain: locking in profits and expertise, and creating the exports that will keep Britain competitive.

“Yes, climate change is a manmade disaster. Yes, the UK is only 2 per cent of global carbon emissions. But if we grasp the opportunity now our businesses and economy can be much more than 2 per cent of the solution.

“We are not going to save our economy by turning our back on renewable energy.

“This has been at the heart of Liberal Democrat policy for decades and it is something the Deputy Prime Minister, the Business Secretary, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury instinctively understand.

“But this goes beyond any one party. I know the Prime Minister agrees, which is why he is putting so much effort in to securing offshore wind manufacturing in the UK. And it is something I know my predecessor Ed Miliband understands.

“It is this three-party consensus that makes the UK such a good place to invest.

“It wasn’t always like that. It is nothing short of a national disgrace that in the 1980s the UK lost our leading wind research position to Denmark, because government refused to support the industry.”

Looking forward to future targets Mr Huhne said: “By the end of this decade, we must cut our carbon emissions by 34 per cent on 1990 levels. By the end of the next decade, they must be halved.

“To hit our EU renewable energy target, we must generate 30 per cent of our electricity from renewables by 2020. That means a fourfold increase in deployment – turning our back on an inheritance that ranked us as the dunce in class, 25th out of 27 EU countries for renewables.

“Growth on that kind of scale will not be easy. It will require tough decisions, clear thinking, and tightly focused support.”