Renewables Obligation Closure Etc. (Amendment) Order 2016 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 16th March 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative 8:00 pm, 16th March 2016

My Lords, I shall comment on some of the points made by the previous speaker. This Government are certainly behind renewables of all sorts for the future. I hope the noble Baroness accepts that we are working towards the benefits of a low-carbon economy and—she did not refer to this in her contribution—that the costs of producing solar energy have come down. Therefore, one of my questions to her is: if those costs have gone down, is it really right that we should maintain the subsidies envisaged when the costs were higher and, if so, what implications does that have for the people who have to pay for them—that is, the consumers? Does she also accept that, as the Minister said in his opening comments, we ran the risk of exceeding the budgets that were originally planned because of the wonderful response we had and that up to four times more could well be envisaged by the end of that time?

For me, it is a matter of looking at projects as they come up, be they in green energy or any other energy. As far as I am concerned, subsidies have always been there to pump-prime—to help new industries take off and become established. In this industry, that has clearly worked very well, and solar is a huge success. I have one or two very small solar panels on my garage, which do not bring in a big income, but we try to do our bit because we believe in renewable green energy, so we have them.

By considering the grace period, the Government have responded. When we debated this before, a question was raised about it. However, I find this quite hard and I say to the noble Baroness in all sincerity: when the industry has become successful and those costs have come down so much, the question must be whether those subsidies should be continuously maintained when the response we have had suggests that they might not be. Therefore, is it right to expect the consumer still to be paying for that project? The Government recorded that £52 billion has been spent on the renewables sector since 2010. That is a huge amount, as the noble Baroness knows from when she was in coalition. However, unless things are tackled, a balance has to be struck. I suspect she and I will not agree on how that should be done. It is realistic challenge that any Government must face. At the moment, we are in government, and the costs and the response from the industry have done really well. The question is whether the order before us tonight is fair and appropriate. On that, I think the noble Baroness and I will agree to disagree.