Amber Rudd appointed UK Energy Secretary

Amber Rudd will replace Ed Davey as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change as part of Prime Minister David Cameron's reshuffle of the new Tory Government.

The Hastings and Rye MP, who held onto her seat in Parliament in last week’s General Election, has been promoted from her previous position as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The Department has also confirmed via Twitter that Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth will serve as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, alongside Rudd and Minister of State Andrea Leadsom. 

Elsewhere in the Conservatives’ cabinet, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles – who was often criticised by the renewable energy industry for delaying the approval of many projects – has been replaced by the former Universities Minister Greg Clark. Pickles will not take up a new Cabinet role, it is understood. 

Meanwhile, Labour has today (11 May) announced a reshuffle of its own and has confirmed that Caroline Flint and Maria Eagle will retain their posts as shadow secretaries for energy and climate and the environment respectively.

Key tasks

Rudd, who previously worked as George Osborne’s parliamentary aide, leads DECC at a crucial time for UK energy policy on both a domestic and international scale. 

High on her ‘to do’ list will be sorting out the ongoing problems with UK energy efficiency policies – namely the Government’s Green Deal, Renewable Heat Incentive and Feed-in-Tariff schemes. Green groups are also pushing for answers concerning the new nuclear power plantCCS funding and fracking.

More broadly, Rudd will be tasked with finalising a new carbon budget for the late 2020s, and pushing for a “strong global climate deal” at the UN climate talks in Paris later this year.

News of Rudd’s promotion was announced by Cameron via Twitter this morning: 

Amber’s green ambitions

As one of Osborne’s associated, the movement of Rudd to DECC in the Government’s reshuffle last summer prompted suggestions that the Treasury was tightening its grip on green energy spending and slowing the pace of the UK’s decarbonisation agenda. 

Last October, Rudd’s speach at the Solar Energy UK B2B event in Birmingham raised questions about DECC’s solar ambitions. She said the decision to remove large-scale solar farms from the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme two years early would help deliver ‘best value for money to consumers’. 

She has, however, previously been praised by campaigners for supporting sustainable fishing and has raised questions about how government energy efficiency programmes would help social housing. In February, Rudd gave another welcomed speech at a Cleantech Innovate event, in which she said the UK’s ‘energy trilemma’ of low carbon, security of supply and energy prices will only be solved through innovation, but that innovation is dependent on continued support and investment.

‘Close collaboration’

Responding to Rudd’s appointment, UK Green Building Council chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said: “Through her previous role as Climate Change Minister, Amber Rudd clearly demonstrated that she understands the business case for energy efficiency and the low carbon economy, and has a strong commitment to tackling climate change.

“Her appointment is important as it not only represents much needed continuity between the previous and new regimes on environmental issues, but hopefully indicates the direction of travel of this Conservative Government on the green economy and climate change. We look forward to continuing our close collaboration with her.”

Rudd’s predecessor, Davey, lost his Kingston & Surbiton constituency to the Tories on an election night that saw the Lib Dems coughed up more than 40 seats. The Five Green Laws ‘nailed to the front of the Lib Dem manifesto’ did little to overcome any reputational losses suffered by the party during their time in Government. 

Industry professionals and journalists lamented the loss of Davey on Twitter.

Tory policy

The Conservatives, who won a surprise majority in last week’s election, are not very popular for their stance on energy and the environment: a recent poll of edie readers discovered that just 2% of sustainability professionals believe the Tories to have the best green policies. 

The Tory manifesto document was slammed by green groups as being “anti-green growth” and “a recipe for higher energy bills”. Cameron reiterated that his party has stayed true to its promise to be the ‘greenest government ever’ – a claim that was laughed off by sustainability professionals and green energy developers alike.  

“The Tories’ double standards and ideological bias are embarrassingly obvious,” saidGreenpeace UK chief scientist Dr Doug Parr. “They’ll champion localism when it comes to wind farms, but they’ll run roughshod over local people’s concerns when it’s about fracking.

Renewable energy developers will also be disappointed by the election result. The Tories plan to effectively bring an end to the development of new onshore wind farms in the UK, with the manifesto stating: “Onshore wind farms often fail to win public support, and are unable by themselves to provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires.”  

Amber Rudd appointment: Twitter reaction

Luke Nicholls

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