PM must restore renewables bankability

Government must provide clear ambition, greater consistency and establish market conditions to help "repair" investor confidence in the green economy.

That’s according to CBI director for business environment Rhian Kelly, in response to today’s (April 26) speech by the prime minister David Cameron, in which he called on businesses to work with governments on renewables to make green energy “financially sustainable” and drive industry growth.

Addressing energy ministers from 23 leading economies earlier today (April 26) at day two of the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) in London, Mr Cameron said that while he “passionately” believes that rapid growth of renewables is “vital to our future” and provides the fastest growing energy source globally, that more needs to be done to drive down costs.

The minister also said that more needs to be done to reduce energy bills, saying that “we don’t just need greener energy – we need cheaper energy too”, noting that renewable energy is “still relatively expensive”, but that reducing them would benefit the economy, environment, consumers and businesses.

As a result, the PM said he was confident that “more mature renewable technologies can be among our cheapest energy sources within years, not decades”, adding that renewable energy needs to be a “viable” proposition globally.

Ms Kelly said that support from the PM would help underline the “economic and environmental potential of the green economy” and “help to repair investor confidence following recent policy uncertainty”, adding that “major investment is needed from the private sector to decarbonise our energy infrastructure and create new jobs across the country”.

Mr Cameron’s speech has also been welcomed by the Renewable Energy Association (REA), but it called for greater acknowledgement of the economic benefits of renewable energy investment.

This follows the publication of a report by the association and Innovas earlier this week (April 24) into the potential job growth offered by renewables by 2020. Figures in the ‘Made in Britain’ report revealed that renewables currently account for 110,000 UK jobs and created a turnover of £12.5bn in 2011.

However, it forecasts that if the UK’s renewables targets are met that this could grow to 400,000 jobs by 2020 and help save £60bn by reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

REA chairman Martin Wright said: “There is a tendency to focus on the costs of renewables as opposed to the benefits. Renewables give us energy independence, they are totally sustainable, there is no waste, and over the long term they will provide low cost energy and, above all, price stability.

“Essentially, renewables represent a tremendous business opportunity now, and offer long term comparative advantage for the UK economy. In anyone’s books that is a compelling proposition.”

According to Mr Cameron, the industry can be strengthened through the introduction of a global carbon floor price, enhanced international trading and a more diverse, cleaner mix of energy sources.

In his speech he said: “Renewables are now the fastest growing energy source on the planet. And I am proud that Britain has played a leading role at the forefront of this green energy revolution.

“Britain has gone from virtually no capacity for renewables, to seeing them provide almost 10% of our total electricity needs last year. And we’ve added more capacity for renewables in the last two years than at any time in the last decade.

“Our commitment and investment in renewable energy has helped to make renewable energy possible. Now we have a different challenge. We need to make it financially sustainable.”

However, green energy supplier Ecotricity founder Dale Vince slammed these achievements saying that the success is “inherited”.

He said: “The prime minister says the UK has added more capacity for renewables in the last two years than at any time in the last decade.

“Whilst that may be true it has nothing to do with the current Government, there have been no new policies from the Coalition that have resulted in this increasing capacity – this success is inherited – and he surely knows that.

“The Renewable Obligation was inherited, the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) was inherited, no new green energy policies have been introduced, indeed the success of the last two years would have been greater if it were not for the actions of this government – specifically the slashing of FiTs rates and the closure of big solar as an industry, because it looked set to boom.”

Carys Matthews

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