First impressions: Different subject same old coalition

I'm new to environmental journalism. It's a complex area with nuances that take some getting your head around. But it is fascinating and then there's the exhilarating rush in throwing yourself head first into such a leviathan of a topic - one that might make all the difference in the long run.


And whilst it is a pleasure to consume and be engulfed by concepts that can at times feel alien and technical, patterns have quickly emerged that are all too familiar.

The infighting and petty squabbling within opposing forces in a coalition that seems doomed to fail is a theme that transgresses all news topics and one that has unfortunately spilled over into the territory of renewable sources.

There has been the row over tuition fees, the difference of opinion over the Alternative Vote and now there's the desperate attempt by the Tories to cut subsides in renewable energy sources that were in place to steer the UK to its goal of being a leader in renewables by 2030.

Lib Dem supporters, who it can be assumed, defected in droves when they felt their party had sold their souls to the devil in 2010 must now feel vindicated, as up until now they have been on the losing sides to all these arguments. Perhaps this week's announcement that the Chancellor had failed in his bid to cut onshore wind farming subsidies as much as he would have desired, might prove to be an invaluable last ditch stand for the junior partners in the coalition.

Right-wing backbench Tories have clamoured for the demise of onshore wind farms, pressuring the chancellor to propose a 25% cut to subsidies instead of the initial 10%, but news this week that Ed Davey had stuck to his guns was welcomed by green campaigners.

It is not as simple as all that though, in what looks like a triumph for Ed Davey, he might just have been outflanked. Subsidies were not radically reduced but this will come at a price as the Chancellor has insisted that gas should be the way forward. If gas prices remain low, (and Ed Davey agrees with this) the government intends to put gas in the driving seat beyond 2030. And that is a significant year because it marks the year by which according to the the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the electricity sector must be "virtually decarbonised" if the UK is to meet its target to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

The chancellor has called the 2030 deadline "inefficient" to the consternation of the DECC and green energy campaigners who must feel ignored and undervalued. These feelings must have been reinforced this week considering news that the Treasury and Osborne in particular, were neglecting to meet with them.

Ed Davey meantime has tried to smooth the water by insisting that Carbon Capture and Storage (CSS) technology could be used to just about manage the 2030 target. The thing is, even if CCS could help the UK reach its target, plants would need to be fitted with the technology during the next few years and the vague notion that CCS could be used at an unspecified point in the future, leads to uncertainty in the market because investors in energy infrastructure need a timescale.

So it seems like infighting by our political leaders who hold the key to a greener UK is going to scupper what was a positive directive. Maybe it's time to take a leaf out of the Scottish book.

There was no dillydallying north of the border as the Scottish government was quick to confirm its intention not to cut the renewable energy subsidy further than the 10% proposed and in a letter to Ed Davey, Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond stated that the Scottish Government is not aware of any evidence for any further reduction and that the delay was causing "anxiety and unrest."

RenewableUK's Deputy Chief Executive, Maf Smith stated: "We are delighted that the First Minister has shown such leadership to protect energy security and UK jobs.

"The economic evidence is clear. There is no need for further delay; 8,600 ordinary workers across the UK are waiting on the Government to confirm their jobs are safe, and show its commitment to clean, secure, price predictable energy. These delays are sending waves of uncertainty across the whole of the renewables industry and blocking much needed investment."

Onshore wind farm advocates got what they wanted this week but there was small print attached and it is not a promising sign.

Some things never change but in this case some things have to be put aside because in this case, some things are less important than the future of the UK.

Uncertainty and inertia generated by party-politics led agendas cannot get in the way of what a fundamental issue is facing the country and the planet.

Conor McGlone

Topics: Energy efficiency & low-carbon
Tags: carbon capture | DECC | ed davey | gas | Infrastructure | investors | onshore wind | opinion | renewables | Scotland | Subsidies | technology | water
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