In his speech, the Chancellor continued his support for nuclear and shale gas and reiterated yesterday’s decision to push the Government’s renewable energy strategy through offshore wind power rather than onshore wind and solar energy.

He confirmed a tax break for shale gas, which he first announced a year ago. Osborne is attempting to encourage exploration of the controversial gas by halving tax rates on the early profits made by fracking firms.

Osborne said: “The country that was the first to extract oil and gas from deep under the sea should not turn its back on new sources of energy like shale gas because it’s all too difficult”.

He also extended his backing for nuclear power by boasting “the country with the world’s first civil nuclear programme shouldn’t be a country that says we can do this no longer”.

With a brief mention of renewables, the Chancellor pin-pointed yesterday’s updated strike prices, which he said “supports long-term investment in offshore wind, and prioritises it over onshore wind”.

He did, however, stress that the Government will focus on “the thing it can and should control: the levies and charges that previous Energy Secretaries piled on bills“.

“This week we deliver on the promise made by the Prime Minister to roll back those levies. The result: an average of £50 off family bills.

“We’re doing this in a way that supports the lowest income families. Reduces carbon. Supports investment in our energy infrastructure,” he added.

Responding to the Chancellor’s statement, environmental groups and manufacturers expressed their anger towards the lack of detail on tackling rising energy bills and the Government’s continued support for the fossil fuel industry.

Chief executive of WWF-UK David Nussbaum said: “On environmental issues, George Osborne still seems keener to look to the past than to look to the future. Championing the oil and gas sector and handing out tax breaks for fracking jars with the David Cameron’s instance that we’re in a global race to benefit from the green economy.

“Claiming that ‘going green doesn’t have to cost the earth’ is simply putting a deliberately negative spin on green technologies, in a week when the Government has clearly recognised that this industry is growing and driving down costs. The Chancellor needs to understand that his rhetoric has an impact and undermines the green economy, despite it being one of our fastest growing sectors,” added Nussbaum.

Commenting on the absence of a further support package for energy intensive companies, chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation Terry Scuoler, said: “Industry, especially energy intensive users, will be dismayed that Government has failed to address the genuine concerns surrounding the uncompetitive price of energy for UK manufacturers.

“Companies looking to invest and create jobs in the UK need a long-term commitment by Government to control costs increases and compensate those most affected. Without this commitment, making the case in global boardrooms to invest in the UK will get increasingly difficult,” he added.

Leigh Stringer

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