Energy review will hit poor hardest

Alan Simpson, former MP and government advisor on renewable energy, now sustainable energy advisor to Friends of the Earth, reports on the impact of the government's energy review.

By Alan Simpson, former MP and government advisor on renewable energy, now sustainable energy advisor to Friends of the Earth

The Government’s ‘fast-track’ review of feed-in tariff (FITs) payments for renewable energy generation is a car crash waiting to happen – and it’s set to hit poor people the hardest.

In theory, ministers are reviewing a scheme barely 10 months old because they fear venture capitalists will turn southern England into a giant solar array and walk off with zillions in taxpayer subsidies. In practice, it is because the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has screwed up.

DECC never wanted the FITs scheme that Parliament forced upon it. Rather than follow Germany’s lead on community-generated power, ministers were comforted by energy companies lobbying hard to limit FITs to renewable energy installations of up to 50kW.

But the energy companies lost. When in office, climate secretary Ed Miliband told officials that FITs were here to stay – and not just as ‘eco-trinkets’ for the rich. Parliament set a 5MW ceiling on schemes eligible for payments, and was then trumped by David Cameron who pledged to double it to 10MW. Community-generated power was given a green light – with people set to earn and save money through green energy projects in their local area.

What a difference an election makes. ‘Big Energy’ is back in the driving seat. The government is in a panic. FITs funding has been capped at £440 million and further cuts are now likely. Schools, communities and housing associations may be stopped from generating green power – affecting some of the most vulnerable the hardest.

No matter that the cost of solar power is tumbling so fast that it will pay its own way before the end of the decade. No matter that the cost of nuclear power continues to spiral. No matter that elsewhere in the world the most ambitious renewable energy programmes have boosted local economies and generated green jobs. Britain’s drive towards green energy has only just begun – and we’ve skidded off course already.

Britain’s FITs programme was on track to deliver 17,000 new jobs in its first year, but within a day of the review announcement, investment decisions were binned. Ernst and Young has downgraded the UK’s status as a safe place to invest, and businesses could end up going elsewhere. The government’s review of feed-in tariffs isn’t about controlling venture capitalists, speculators and costs. DECC simply hadn’t bargained for the huge influx of social housing applications in the FITs pipeline.

And decentralising electricity generation means breaking up a very cosy British cartel – which the government doesn’t want to do; but overall what’s still missing is a real lack of ambition for renewable power. The figures are really quite telling.

Last year alone, Germany installed more solar PV than Britain seeks to do in a decade. Putting solar PV on all of the south facing roofs of homes in the UK would meet more than 30 per cent of our electricity needs, and then there’s commercial and industrial buildings on top. And that’s before factoring in wind, tidal, geothermal and biomethane – Britain’s other largely untapped resources.

If we are going to avoid an energy crash at the expense of Britain’s poorest people, the government must limit its review to solar farms and allow other kinds of FITs to move forward.

Ministers should be trebling targets for community-generated power and kick-starting a green energy revolution. This will cut carbon emissions, create green jobs, and deliver real power to the people.

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24 Responses to “Energy review will hit poor hardest”

  1. Darren Johnson

    Really interesting article on how "Energy Review will hit poorest hardest" http://bit.ly/igSPS6 @wwwfoecouk #nukes #nuclear

  2. Friends of the Earth

    Our green energy advisor on why Govt review will exclude UK's poorest people from creating green power http://bit.ly/h3TYPM

  3. Birmingham FOE

    RT @wwwfoecouk: Our green energy advisor on why Govt review will exclude UK's poorest people from creating green power http://bit.ly/h3TYPM

  4. Lewisham Grn Drinks

    RT @DarrenJohnsonAM: Really interesting article on how "Energy Review will hit poorest hardest" http://bit.ly/igSPS6 @wwwfoecouk #nukes …

  5. Matt Barker

    RT @DarrenJohnsonAM: Really interesting article on how "Energy Review will hit poorest hardest" http://bit.ly/igSPS6 @wwwfoecouk #nukes …

  6. kirst

    RT @wwwfoecouk: Our green energy advisor on why Govt review will exclude UK's poorest people from creating green power http://bit.ly/h3TYPM

  7. Kelvin John Edge

    RT @wwwfoecouk: Our green energy advisor on why Govt review will exclude UK's poorest people from creating green power http://bit.ly/h3TYPM

  8. John Cresswell-Plant

    RT @wwwfoecouk: Our green energy advisor on why Govt review will exclude UK's poorest people from creating green power http://bit.ly/h3TYPM

  9. Sean Candy

    Energy review will hit poor hardest http://bit.ly/ihivok

  10. Fiona Cox

    Energy review will hit poor hardest http://bit.ly/eUkydv

  11. Jim

    Energy review will hit poor hardest http://bit.ly/iaEHYB

  12. Mark Lindsey

    Energy review will hit poor hardest: Community-generated power was given a green light – wi… http://bit.ly/hsB0W5 http://bit.ly/i6LwOW

  13. Power to Society

    RT @DarrenJohnsonAM: Really interesting article on how "Energy Review will hit poorest hardest" http://bit.ly/igSPS6 @wwwfoecouk #nukes …

  14. JohnBaldy

    RT @wwwfoecouk: Our green energy advisor on why Govt review will exclude UK's poorest people from creating green power http://bit.ly/h3TYPM

  15. Howard Johns

    RT @wwwfoecouk: Our green energy advisor on why Govt review will exclude UK's poorest people from creating green power http://bit.ly/h3TYPM

  16. Seb Berry

    Alan Simpson on the solar FIT fiasco RT @leftfootfwd: Energy review will hit poor hardest http://bit.ly/hoyJBm

  17. Huw Irranca-Davies

    RT @wwwfoecouk: Our green energy advisor on why Govt review will exclude UK's poorest people from creating green power http://bit.ly/h3TYPM

  18. Lizzy

    RT @wwwfoecouk: Our green energy advisor on why Govt review will exclude UK's poorest people from creating green power http://bit.ly/h3TYPM

  19. Andrew Pakes

    RT @wwwfoecouk: Our green energy advisor on why Govt review will exclude UK's poorest people from creating green power http://bit.ly/h3TYPM

  20. blogs of the world

    Alan Simpson, former MP and government advisor on renewable energy, now sustainable energy… http://reduce.li/dgw4u8 #foot

  21. Mr. Sensible

    Alan, Cameron recently admitted that the ‘Greenest Government Ever’ pledge was a load of hipe.

  22. Stuart

    I agree, keep the fit’s scheme for domestic, community, commercial (roof top) installations only. No more green space has to be used up by solar farms when we have so much roof space to use.

    Heat my Home

  23. Boilers

    Good article, although there are a lot of methods in which people can save energy without spending a penny – most families can reduce their energy bill significantly by just following a few simple steps every day of the week. The old “not keeping things on standby” thing first comes into mind, but there’s obviously a lot more to it than that. Combine the simple things with affordably energy efficient methods of living (more efficient insulation, heating, lighting), and everyone can save energy without having to spend huge amounts of money.

  24. Will Osborne sell out "greenest government ever" in Budget? | Left Foot Forward

    […] Left Foot Forward has recently shown: • Instead of supporting new green initiatives and industries that could create jobs and save energy, since the government came to power green subsidies have come under threat; […]

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