Time for Tories to take a wider look at renewables, Lord Howard urges

In recent years

Since it won the 2015 general election, the Tory government has largely excluded onshore wind and solar energy from support through Contract for Difference auctions while removing central government planning backing for such projects.

However, the manifesto for this year’s general election was the first since then to ignore onshore wind and solar, offering the government wriggle room to review its stance on an increasingly cheap source of renewable electricity.

Responding to a question by Utility Week about whether the government should take a fresh look at the issue, Lord Howard said: “We have to look from time to time about what method of generating electricity is most effective in getting you to your target without investing undue expense.

“I should think it will be looked at because these things need to be looked at from time to time.”

The peer, who was David Cameron’s predecessor as Conservative leader and secretary of state for the environment during the run up to the 1992 Rio Earth climate change summit, also reaffirmed his backing for action to help deliver the UK’s 2050 net-zero emissions target.

“Sometimes when prime ministers have a small majority, they have to compromise but with a big majority you can do what you think is right for the country,” he said. 

“Now we have an ambitious net-zero emissions target, it’s the right target and I very much believe it can be achieved and will be achieved. We pretty much lead the world and it is enshrined in law. I hope we can make all the progress necessary to achieve that target.”

The former Conservative leader spoke to Utility Week as his ex-Cabinet colleague Lord Deben published a letter to Boris Johnson in his capacity as chair of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

Lord Deben, who succeeded Lord Howard as environment secretary in Sir John Major’s government, has told the Prime Minister that he cannot rely just on technological fixes to cut carbon emissions.

During his first appearance at Prime Minister’s Question Time in July, Johnson told the House of Commons that the government’s approach to tackling climate change would be based on harnessing private sector technology.

In the letter, co-authored with the CCC’s deputy chair Baroness Brown, Lord Deben writes: “Technological innovation is only part of the answer. We must not wait for future technologies to solve the problems we can already tackle with known solutions.”

The CCC chair urges the prime minister to “seize” the opportunity created by the government’s strengthened majority following last week’s election to make “confident decisions” on tackling the climate change challenge.

Requesting an early meeting to brief on the CCC’s assessment of upcoming priorities, he writes that the PM should not treat climate change as an issue for a single department when considering his widely rumoured shake-up of the government in the New Year.

“It requires strong leadership at the heart of government, implementation of climate policies across government, and a programme of change at a scale not previously attempted.”

David Blackman

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title, Utility Week

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