Business reaction to Chris Huhne’s departure

Former energy secretary Chris Huhne leaves office as a man who has taken environmental issues to the forefront of politics, but will be forever tainted by solar subsidies changes and a failure to tackle rising energy bills.

That’s the opinion of businesses and charities reacting to the news Mr Huhne will leave his role to focus on his upcoming trial for allegedly asking his now ex-wife to take speeding penalty points for him.

The on-going court saga over Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) and high energy bills feature highly in reaction that is largely positive in response to Mr Huhne’s decision to end his tenure as energy secretary.

Mr Huhne, who denies the charges, has really ‘shaken up’ the energy debate according to Good Energy founder and chief executive, Juliet Davenport.

She said: “He has certainly been successful in driving that agenda forward, it’s vital his replacement keeps up the momentum behind energy reforms.

“But that has to be matched with a willingness to listen on things like the need for a more decentralised market.

“Good Energy looks forward to working with the new Secretary of State to deliver that.”

Friends of the Earth’s executive director, Andy Atkins, said he has ‘championed the environment’ in an administration that’s shown ‘little enthusiasm’ for it, but his failure to tackle rising energy bills remains another stain on his work.

He said: “He should be commended for insisting on tougher climate targets and fighting for a Green Investment Bank – but his department’s incompetent handling of solar cuts has put 29,000 jobs at risk.

“Leaving consumers to compare energy tariffs as a way to tackle soaring bills is woefully inadequate.

“What we really need is decisive Government action to get us off the hook of expensive fossil fuels and invest in clean British energy instead.

“The new energy secretary must stand firm against George Osborne’s anti-green agenda and make the case that protecting our environment is a way to boost not hinder our economic recovery.”

Mr Huhne leaving is an ‘unwelcome distraction’ asccording to WSP Environment & Energy director at global environmental consultancy, David Symons.

He said: “Mr Huhne did a good job as the UK’s representative at Durban, and as the minister responsible for driving through the Green Deal he was an important figurehead for the government’s flagship energy scheme.

“A change of minister at such a critical stage in the development of UK energy policy will only lead to more uncertainty for an industry which has been plagued by moving goalposts in recent years.

“What’s more he had been a staunch defender of the green agenda at a time when other Coalition leaders seem to be distancing themselves from it.

“It is to be hoped that his replacement will pick up where he left off, and will be put in place swiftly enough to make sure the progress of UK energy policy does not stall.”

REA chief executive, Gaynor Hartnell, said the FITs and the Govverment’s attempts to cut it will remain the biggest blot on Mr Huhne’s tenure as energy secetary.

She said: “Mr Huhne was a strong advocate of the renewables agenda and no doubt his forcefulness will have been a key factor in securing a better outcome than many feared regarding the budgets for the Renewables Obligation, the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Feed-in Tariffs.

“The subsequent poor handling of the latter was regrettable. We would like the new incumbent to make rebuilding investor trust and confidence in the Government’s renewable energy policies their number one priority.”

Luke Walsh

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