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[Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair] — Clean Energy Investment

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 25th November 2015.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Labour, Don Valley 9:30 am, 25th November 2015

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the future of clean energy investment.

It is a pleasure, Mr Bailey, to serve under your chairmanship. I thank the powers that be for accepting my application for an Adjournment debate on this subject.

Last week, I spoke in the debate on climate change, responding to the Pope’s encyclical in which His Holiness said:

“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.”

As the Paris talks begin on Monday, it is vital that the world gets a strong deal to ensure the future of our planet for generations to come. We must also speak loudly and clearly about the new economic opportunities within our grasp. The challenge for the 21st century is how quickly we can fully benefit from the clean energy revolution.

As a patriot, I want the United Kingdom to be a global player, leading and innovating in the latest energy technologies and reaping the rewards, jobs and investment that will go to the leaders in this race. This requires an industrial and economic strategy fit for a world kept at less than 2° of warming. If that is the challenge and if that indicates the direction, I am afraid the Government have lost their satnav. The latest Ernst and Young renewable energy country attractiveness index puts the UK out of the top 10 for the first time ever. We now sit at 11th, behind Chile and the Netherlands, and the reason is simple. According to Ernst and Young it is

“death by a thousand cuts…At best it may be a case of misguided short-term politics getting in the way of long-term policy. At worst, however, it’s policymaking in a vacuum, lacking any rationale or clear intent.”

That is a damning verdict on the Government’s record over the past five years, a record with a very real cost from jobs and investment lost.

Investors do not have to choose the UK. If we do not make it attractive for them to invest in clean energy here, we will lose jobs in new technologies and their supply chains for the lifetime of those investments. That is exactly what happened when we lost out in the 1980s to other countries which saw the potential of wind energy.

I would never advocate that new technologies have never-ending subsidies or that taxpayers and energy bill payers pay a penny more than required, but the Government’s actions cannot be justified only on those terms. The decision to charge renewable generators the climate change levy was a grab by the Treasury, pure and simple. Business plans that relied on that income have had to be ripped up. Drax lost a third of its share value in one day following the announcement, and as a result it and Infinis have launched legal proceedings against the Government. On 25 September, Drax said that policy certainty is no longer there to continue its involvement with the White Rose carbon capture and storage project.

Developing CCS is an important part of our clean energy infrastructure and I thought the Conservatives thought so too. Perhaps the Minister will confirm whether what we hear through the media—that the Government’s allocation of £1 billion to support CCS innovation is to be cut—is true. In October, the report of the Committee on Climate Change, “Power sector scenarios for the 5th Carbon Budget”, said:

“CCS is very important for reducing emissions across the economy and could almost halve the cost of meeting the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act.”