• Devon MPs appear complacent over renewable energy subsidy cuts to industry on “edge of a cliff”

    13th December 2015 | News | Claire
  • Just days after the ink has dried on the Paris climate change conference pledge the British government is set to legislate in favour of huge subsidy cuts, which could throw the renewable energy industry into crisis.

    Richard Fuell, UK Sales Manager with Solar Edge Technologies, is angry and worried about the effect the dramatic cuts in subsidies will have on his business.

    He said: “The whole industry is on the edge of a cliff and this decision will have a significant negative impact.  Not only will it affect thousands of people directly involved with solar but gives a clear message that the UK will NOT be leading the world to fight against climate change but has instead decided to kill off an environmentally positive industry. 

    “The solar industry in the UK is still in its infancy.  If the current subsides were phased out gradually over the next three years (as has been the case for the past three years) the industry would be able to stand on its own feet and we as a country would have an opportunity to help the fight against climate change.”

    The Paris agreement, signed by all 195 countries, including Britain, has promised to aim to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than two degrees.

    And David Cameron announced his commitment to the Paris pledge on Saturday, tweeting:  “Today’s climate change deal means our grandchildren will see we did our duty in securing the future of our planet.”

    But on Thursday this week (17 December) the Conservative government is set to announce cuts of up to a whopping 87 per cent, which could cause the industry to collapse and the loss of thousands of jobs in the south west alone.

    The cuts are equivalent to over £100m over the course of this parliament.

    Unbelievably, we have barely heard a whisper of protest from Devon MPs, aside from Ben Bradshaw, who has spoken out against the plans several times.

    Business leaders and environmentalists have accused Mr Cameron of “outstanding hypocrisy,” over his government’s plans for green energy subsidy cuts, so close to the signing of such a historic agreement.

    Disappointingly, last week, my urgent motion at Devon County Council full meeting calling on MPs to undertake a final lobbying exercise to ministers, was voted down even being debated, by Conservative councillors.

    It will now be referred to the January cabinet meeting, where it is likely to be too late for any action to be taken.

    Within days of the initial government announcement in the summer, two major renewable energy companies in the UK went bust, resulting in over 1000 job losses.

    The renewable energy sector is one of the biggest players in the south west economy but is still a fledgling industry. 

    The industry is happy for the subsidies to be reduced, but is asking for cuts to be made more slowly, to avoid it crashing.

    It appears to me that the Conservative government has deliberately set out to dismantle an industry that it is ideologically opposed to.  And most Devon MPs have done little or nothing to defend it.

    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 has also recently announced the most generous tax breaks in the world for fracking companies.

    If the cuts go ahead as planned, the south west could lose over 2,200 jobs in the solar industry alone.

    Those of us who are astonished at the silence of most Devon MPs on an issue of such monumental importance to the future of our planet – and our economy – are likely to wonder whether its cause is a desire to tow the party line, climate change denial – or both.