• Devon County Council Tories vote down urgent debate on crippling renewable energy subsidy cuts

    10th December 2015 | News | Claire
  • The LibDem , Labour and Non-aligned groups voted to hear the motion.

    The government is set to slash the subsidy by a whopping 87 per cent overnight as early as January, which could cripple a currently successful, but fledgling industry.

    Conservative Leader John Hart asked his group to vote against debating my motion today at the full council meeting, although it had been explained in writing that the motion was urgent because ministers are set to finalise their plans, on Wednesday 16 December.

    My motion called on all Devon MPs to urgently make representations to ministers, on slowing down the planned and huge subsidy cuts.

    The usual route is for a motion to be referred to cabinet before returning to the next full council meeting for debate.  However, movers of motions can argue for it to be debated there and then – which I did this afternoon.

    The motion will now go before cabinet and back to the February full council, where any debate is likely to be fruitless because the decision will almost certainly have already been made by ministers. 

    Extraordinarily, ministers have not held any debate in parliament on the matter – and will not before they make the final decision.

    Merlin Hyman, chief executive of Regen South West, emailed Cllr Hart earlier this week to confirm that senior officials at the Department of Energy and Climate Change said that the government was intending to make the proposals final next Wednesday (16 December).

    However, Cllr Hart said this afternoon that his investigations had revealed that there was still time to act so advised his group to vote against an urgent debate.

    This was very disappointing – and a missed opportunity to send a clear message to the industry, to MPs and to central government, that Devon County Council opposes its reckless action – and defends businesses – and the damage to the county’s economy that the severe cuts will cause.

    I really think that the government’s position on this is completely shameful. The subsidies are set to be cut by 87 per cent OVERNIGHT – which is likely to cause a crisis in the industry and thousands of job losses.

    It appears to me that the Conservative government has deliberately set out to dismantle an industry that they are ideologically opposed to.

    Disingenuously, ministers have implied that renewable energy gets a bigger subsidy than any other energy. The truth of the matter is that renewables receive less.  Nuclear power gets a very large subsidy by way of preferential rates for electricity produced. Most of the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s budget is spent on nuclear power.

    The chancellor recently announced the best tax breaks for fracking companies in the world.

    The agony of all this is that the renewable sector actually support plans to reduce subsidies.  All they are asking for is the pace of withdrawal to be slower so their industry doesn’t crash.

    But the government seems only too keen for this to happen and most of our MPs seem completely complacent about it.

    I really hope that John Hart is right and we do get to make representations to MPs in February.  But I fear it will be too late by then.

    The itemised webcast can be viewed here. It is item 11e – http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/home



    No nuclear power station could ever be built without state aid.  Hinkley C is being underwritten by the taxpayer to the tune of £17bn.

    Importantly, renewable energy industry is The key business in the SW. 

    It is SO important to the south west economy that it can be compared with steel in the north of England.

    Around 10,000 people in the south west are working in renewable sector.

    Many suppliers to the sector have also benefited from this success.

    But although it is a success story, it is a fledgling industry and still at a stage where it needs government support.

    The industry has benefited, as ALL energy providers do in this country, from government subsidies – and as a result, the contribution to clean sustainable energy has been significant.

    Around 25 per cent of our electricity is produced through renewable energy.

    BUT in the late summer the government announced that it was dramatically slashing the subsidies to this vital industry, which is still in its infancy.
    Within days of the announcement two major renewable energy companies in the UK went bust resulting in over 1000 job losses.

    The cuts are equivalent to the withdrawal of 87 per cent of the subsidy overnight. It is a reduction of around £100m over the course of this parliament. 

    It could cause the sector to come to a grinding halt.

    In the south west we could lose over 2,200 jobs in the solar industry alone.

    For anyone who thinks that the renewable energy subsidies are too costly for the taxpayer, or that renewable energy results in expensive fuel bills, I have some stats:

    • The International Monetary Fund calculates fossil fuel subsidies cost each person in the UK £400 a year.
    • George Osborne, announcing tax breaks for shale gas in 2013, committed the government to making the tax regime “the most generous for shale in the world.”
    • The subsidies for Hinkley Point C nuclear power station are expected to add approximately £14 to the average energy bill.
    • The annual government grant to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is £2.09 billion. That means the average cost per household of dealing with nuclear waste is £79. 
    • 60 per cent of the department for energy and climate change’s budget goes towards nuclear power.
    • The cost of RENEWABLE ENERGY subsidy adds around £45 a year onto the average fuel bill.

    Ironically, contrary to the nuclear industry, which cannot survive without huge public subsidies in the form of very preferential rates for electricity, the renewable energy sector agrees that subsidies SHOULD reduce but more slowly, over the course of this parliament, to allow businesses to adjust and job losses to be kept to a minimum.

    Disgracefully, there has been NO debate in parliament over this, just a briefing in Westminster Hall.