SNP calls on UK Government to end ‘shameful’ renewables record

The Conservative Government's "shameful" renewable energy policy record risks threatening the UK's economic prosperity and investment opportunities in a "thriving" industry, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has warned.

In a letter sent to Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Secretary Greg Clark this week, SNP Energy spokesperson Callum McCaig highlighted an “appalling” lack of action from Ministers to support the renewables industry.

With figures showing that investment in wind, solar, biomass power and waste-to-energy projects could decline by 95% between 2017 and 2020, McCaig believes it is “absolutely clear” that the time to act is now.

The Aberdeen South MP said: “We call on you to halt the agenda of unexpected, cherry-picked, damaging announcements and policies in favour of a thorough industrial strategy into the supply and demand of energy in your Industrial Strategy.
“Whilst we have thus far been frustrated by the staggering lack of progress by the UK Government on this vital issue, we hope that our governments can work together to secure a sustainable future.”

‘Blaze the trail’

McCaig’s comments reflect a widely-held view that the UK renewables sector has suffered from a “Jenga approach” to green policy over the past couple of years, epitomised by several cuts to feed-in tariff (FiT) subsidies and withdrawals of Government incentives.

Shortly after the EU Referendum, the Government made a welcome commitment to to cut carbon emissions by 57% by 2030 on 1990 levels, but has so far failed to spell out exactly how it will support low-carbon energy sources, such as offshore wind farms, beyond 2020.

Meanwhile, the future of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) remains a “major concern” for the SNP, in the wake of reports suggesting that the preferred bidder has already lined up a series of potential buyers for the GIB’s most valuable assets. But despite the continuing uncertainty over the GIB deal, upcoming Brexit negotiations and the “devastating” reduction of renewables investment, McCaig remains confident that Scotland’s renewable sector will continue to flourish.

Indeed, recent figures show that Scotland is leading the UK in reducing the climate impact of electricity generation. Nevertheless, green groups have called for the country to go further and “blaze the trail” for global pollution-free power by instilling a national 50% renewable energy target.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Scotland could become the EU’s first fully renewable electricity nation by 2030. However, if we are to deliver anywhere near our full potential on renewables, then it’s vital that Governments north and north of the border work together. 

“Renewables, such as wind and solar, are helping us to avoid record amounts of carbon emissions and creating jobs throughout the country. It is only by collaborating closely that Ministers will be enable to ensure that this continues and that society is able to reap the maximum benefits from the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Letter of the law

The SNP letter is the latest in a string of mesages sent to BEIS Secretary Clark since his appointment last summer regarding the future of the UK’s green economy. Last week, for instance, MPs raised concerns over the proposed sale of the GIB to private investors, with the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) writing to Clark to seek assurances that the new owner will protect the bank’s green principles.

In the Christmas build-up, UK energy consultancy Inenco sent an open letter to Clark calling for some indication as to how the energy landscape will shift over the coming years. And just before that, Clark took heed of calls from opposition parties to the Paris Agreement “as soon as possible” last September.

The BEIS Secretary has yet to provide assurances that the Government will continue to meet EU directives and targets until Brexit terms are in place, as first called for in another letter sent by an alliance of trade bodies, pressure groups and NGOs in Clark’s first month in office.

George Ogleby

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