“Politicians are the same all over – they promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers” Nikita Krushchev
Having been replaced in a ministerial reshuffle in Jun 2014, Owen Paterson (ex-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) recently called for the Climate Change Act to be repealed, citing global warming forecasts as having been “consistently and widely exaggerated”. In his interview on the Today programme, he attacks the Act as promoting certain technologies, such as wind power, that have no hope in meeting emissions targets. Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, counters Mr Paterson’s assertions in his blog – “Owen Paterson – the top 10 questions”. In particular, the Act is clearly and deliberately technology neutral, punching a hole in Mr Paterson’s argument. This is just another example of politicians blowing hot air and throwing mud in the face of logic.
Mr Cameron still sticks to the official line that the UK is still on track to hit its target of reducing greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050….not really surprising though, as there’s a General Election looming and no politician is going to risk alienating voters at this stage. However, it is noticeable that the Green Parties are now talking less about the environment and more about mainstream policies (see previous blog post), sensing winnable seats.
So, what could lie ahead for renewable energy in 2015 and beyond?
- Less ‘green tape’ – Cameron has warned there should not be a ‘trade-off’ between reducing carbon emissions and economic growth.
- Reducing incentives – as take up for renewable gathers apace, government support is reducing for new generators. Solar has already seen huge reductions in tariff payments and now it’s the turn of biomass heating which has dropped by 10% in October and we expect a further 20% reduction in January 2015.
- Tax breaks unlikely – the UK already has a national debt of around 80% of GDP (100% is bust) and is still running a fiscal deficit, so new tax breaks for renewable energy sources appear unlikely.
- Effect of shale gas – the success of fracking in the US has effectively meant an oversupply of oil in the global market. The resulting fall in prices is a welcome stimulus to most world economies but it also means that renewable energy becomes comparatively more expensive. This could reduce the profitability for new generating stations if the government does not meet the widening cost differential.
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