Conservative Party Conference: Tories get 'tough' on renewables
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has given her full backing for the cutting of subsidies for onshore wind and solar, insisting that "renewable energy can stand on its own two feet".
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this afternoon (5 October), Rudd said: "As we have already shown, we will be tough on subsidies. There is no magic money tree.
"We said in our manifesto that we would halt the spread of subsidised onshore wind farms, and that's exactly what we have done - this would have been impossible in the coalition.
"I support cutting subsidies - not because I am an anti-green Conservative, but because I am a proud green Conservative on the side of the consumer. We must be tough on subsidies. Only then can we deliver the change we need."
In a speech that notably contained no mention of the upcoming Paris climate talks, Rudd instead chose to reiterate the Government's support for fracking in the UK, claiming it had led to a dramatic decrease in US emissions because it was "cheaper, without subsidy, than the alternative".
She added: "The kind of transformation we need of our global energy system will only happen if low-carbon energy becomes cheaper than the alternative.
"The only long-term way to solve the real tension between affordability, security and low carbon is to discover low-cost, low-carbon technologies. We need energy breakthroughs, and Government has a part to play in supporting them."
The Hastings & Rye MP also took her time at the plynth to have a dig at Labour's energy policy, claiming it is "riven with gimmickry" and lambasting the "anti-business, anti-competition nonsense of the price freeze".
"And as if that was not bad enough, a Labour leader who has also spoken of renationalising the energy sector... at a cost to the taxpayer of £185bn," Rudd added.
On energy efficiency, Rudd confirmed plans to insulate another million homes in five years, although she did not specify how, leaving a replacement scheme for the Green Deal still unidentified. Greenpeace’s Energydesk also pointed out that this would actually still be an 80% decrease on the amount of homes insulated under the previous Government.
Since May's General Election, the Tories have overseen significant 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.
"Some have characterised these changes as motivated by ideological opposition to anything green," Rudd said. "Nothing could be further from the truth.
"We must be tough on subsidies, pro-competition, anti-monopoly, pro-innovation and pro-consumer. Only then can we deliver the change we need.”
Responding to Rudd’s speech, Friends of the Earth senior campaigner Liz Hutchins said: “Government cuts to renewable energy subsidies are short-sighted and politically-motivated.
“Slashing support for rooftop solar will prevent over a million people installing systems, threaten more than 20,000 jobs and undermine efforts to tackle climate change. But the government continues to nurture the ‘magic money tree’ for the coal, oil, gas and nuclear industries, who all receive billion pound subsidies every year.”
Earlier in the day at the Conservative Party Conference, Chancellor George Osborne confirmed plans to establish a new National Infrastructure Commission in a bid to fast-track the building of new energy and transport infrastructure across the UK - a move largely welcomed by industry and green groups.
Luke Nicholls & Brad Allen