Lord Bourne: Green policy shake-up necessary to curb energy bills

EXCLUSIVE: After a flurry of shock green policy announcements, the Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) says such drastic changes were needed to drive down consumer bills.

Lord Nick Bourne, who is responsible for the Conservative Party’s energy efficiency policy, says last week’s decision to axe the Green Deal along with recent moves to restrict clean energy subsidies will mean “people are not paying bills that are totally unaffordable”.

Speaking to edie yesterday (28 July), Bourne said: “This is a new Government and we are setting the scene. What we’ve done this week and last week is ensure bills will come down. We’re keen to strip some of these measures out… to have a simplified system which is subsidy-free.”

Green Deal replacement

Bourne, who also acts as whip in the House of Lords and as a junior minister in the Wales Office, was the DECC minister tasked with writing the official letter notifying the Green Deal Finance Company of no further Government funding.

Despite that announcement receiving a wave of criticism from green groups, businesses and opposition parties, Bourne says DECC remains on the side of industry and is working to deliver a more sustainable alternative.

“I haven’t spoken to a single member of any industrial team that was taken by surprise by our action on the Green Deal – it simply hadn’t been delivering,” he said. “We’re now discussing what we put in its place. We’re working with industry so that we can get something that is lasting, durable and helps consumers.

“It’s always important that we tackle fuel poverty. The numbers have, in fairness, gone down, so we are making some progress there. But we do need to look at an alternative to the Green Deal that is sustainable and is going to ensure people do not live in fuel poverty.

“There is a degree of urgency about it – we’re looking at delivering something new within the autumn, by the end of the Government’s spending review.”

Subsidy cuts

It has been a turbulent period for DECC. In just three months since the election, the new Conservative Government  has also overseen subsidy cuts for onshore wind and solar; the scrapping of a tax exemption for renewable energy; the postponement of the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction; the removal of zero-carbon homes standards; and the sell-off of the Green Investment Bank

But, despite all of the chopping and changing, Bourne insists the Tories are on the right track. “We are still continuing to decarbonise at a massive rate,” he said. “The costs are coming down and the need for subsidies is less. Even with the reductions on solar, feed-in tariffs and so on, we are still contributing massively to decarbonisation because these projects last beyond 2020, by which time there is every prospect that some of these costs will continue to fall massively – solar is on a very steep trajectory.

“Investor confidence is of course important – I’ve seen a range of energy industry representatives but they understand what we’re doing. We are in danger of exceeding our budget from the last Parliament if we don’t take the action we’re taking.

“We have three aims: to make sure electricity is affordable; to make bills more secure; and for our energy to be green. The Secretary of State is committed to all of these aims, and at the moment working particularly hard on the last of the three.”

Road to Paris

Looking forward, Bourne’s focus will very much be on supporting Rudd on international climate change, with a commitment to push for an ambitious deal at December’s Paris Summit. He is optimistic an agreement will be reached, but understands the enormity of the task ahead.

“The ingredients are there for an ambitious agreement in Paris. We need to make sure that the two-degree increase [in global warming] is kept in view. The EU has got some ambitious targets and others need to step up to the plate with ambitious targets so that we can deliver in Paris and make sure that the agreement sticks and is enforced beyond Paris.”

Luke Nicholls

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