UK Government urged to future-proof renewables amid Brexit ‘volatility’

The vote to leave the European Union (EU) may have created a "fragile" confidence within the clean energy industry, but multiple organisations have called on the Government to build a cross-party coalition that provides wind energy with a viable route to market.

Both Scottish Renewables and RenewableUK met on Wednesday (29 June) at the Scottish Renewables’ Onshore Wind Conference to strategise how governments can stimulate growth, specifically within the wind sector, if the UK does eventually lose access to the European Energy Market after leaving the EU.

RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal said: “It is tempting in these unprecedented times, in the period of uncertainty and market volatility since the vote, to focus only on the challenges ahead. The fears are very real. The stakes very high, in terms of investment, jobs and consumer bills if we lose access to the European Energy Market.

“It is precisely now, at this moment which is so unpredictable and uncertain, that I believe we should reflect on what we can offer; cheap, home-grown electricity able to deliver hundreds of millions of pounds of capital investment for our economy over the next few years, helping companies all over Britain just at a time when we need it most.

“It is vital that onshore wind retains an ability to compete and that it has “a route to market”. The offer is there. We now need to work to build a broad coalition, one that reaches out across industry, across all political parties, to help deliver it.”

Scottish vision

McNeal’s vision of a cross-industry coalition arrived on the same day that both energy minister Andrea Leadsom and Energy Secretary Amber Rudd claimed that efforts to tackle climate change and secure a clean energy future would not be effected by Brexit.

But with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon exploring the possibilities of a second independence referendum, there are concerns that environmental policies could be “eroded” by a volatile and uncertain future.

“The many questions thrown up by Brexit just add to the huge uncertainty that was already surrounding Scotland’s renewable energy sector following numerous changes to support by the Westminster Government over the last 12 months,” Scottish Renewables’s chief executive Niall Stuart said.

“Confidence amongst most of our members is incredibly fragile right now, and we need clear leadership at Westminster and Holyrood if we are to deliver further growth, to protect the many thousands of jobs supported by the industry, and to deliver the change in our energy sector that the people of Scotland want to see.”

In order to future proof the wind industry, Stuart called on the UK Government to implement a new strategy to ensure that post-Brexit concerns don’t “get in the way of three crucial things for the industry”.

Stuart called on ministers to “stick to their plan” of announcing the final decision on support for renewables on Scottish islands, which could provide a £725m economic boost if they were converted into renewable outposts.

Stuart also called for “common sense to prevail” by ensuring that onshore wind and solar are allowed to bid for long-term contracts, as they currently support 21,000 jobs and delivers huge sums of investment each year.

Despite displacing record levels of CO2 in 2014, the renewables sector in Scotland is struggling to meet its 100% renewable electricity target for 2020. To alleviate the concerns, Stuart called on the new Prime Minister and Cabinet to set out “clear and unequivocal commitments” to the international obligation to tackle climate change by creating significant growth in the renewables sector.

Matt Mace

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