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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

That is a very good question to ask the Minister. I hope that she will give some attention to the hon. Gentleman’s point. I have visited Peterhead and I know how important those projects are to communities around the UK and, importantly, to future generations in creating more jobs and opportunities for work here at home, but also for exporting those skills and expertise overseas.

The cheapest forms of renewable energy are under attack. We have seen rapid changes to the renewables obligation and the feed-in tariff, which have already cost UK jobs and are putting off investors. Cuts of up to 87% in the feed-in tariff for small-scale wind and solar are being proposed. The Solar Trade Association predicts that it could put 35,000 jobs in the sector and supply chain at risk, affecting jobs in almost every town in the country. Its latest survey, which is currently being carried out, has found that at least 1,500 jobs have been lost already. More than 70% of companies that have responded so far have put employees on notice.

The ending of the renewable obligation one year earlier than expected in April 2016 and changes to the planning system seem economically illiterate when onshore wind is the cheapest form of clean energy. The latest analysis from the Committee on Climate Change of the power sector, which will feed into the carbon budget to be produced this month, shows that the potential of onshore wind is around 80 TW, over four times its current deployment.

As with all development, account should be taken of location and impact, but I have become used to big statements from Tory Ministers about changes to onshore wind planning guidance to placate their Back Benchers. When the dust has settled, that has not amounted to much, but it damages and undermines an industry that provides nearly £900 million in gross value added. We know the damage that business short-termism has inflicted on our economy, but this is political short-termism at its worst.

In June, the Minister, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend Liz McInnes, said the UK was on track to meet our interim EU 2020 target for renewable energy generation. Thanks to a leaked letter, we now know the UK will miss our EU 2020 renewables target by a large margin. In that letter, the Secretary of State is frantically lobbying the Chancellor to keep support in place for renewable heat and I hope that the Minister will tell us how that is going. The Secretary of State goes on to suggest that to meet our EU 2020 renewables target we—bill payers and taxpayers—should pay for renewable projects in other countries. Where is the patriotism and ambition for our country in that? It is an affront to people in renewables industries who have lost their jobs or fear for them.

The Secretary of State seems to have woken up belatedly to a car crash about to happen on her watch. The renewables sector does not want or expect to rely on subsidies for ever. Across the sector, it wants to work with the Government to set ambitious and achievable cost reduction milestones. For example, solar provides 2% of UK electricity, but the Government are leaving no room for future growth. That does not make sense when the sector is so close to parity.

How do we get the UK back on track? Here are five recommendations and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response—if not today, perhaps in writing. First, the Government should set out right away the levy control framework for 2020-21 to 2025 or beyond. That would provide investors with confidence and certainty about what support will be available. Secondly, the contracts for difference auctions should proceed as soon as possible, including for onshore wind and solar. Contracts for difference were designed to drive down costs, so it is right that those technologies should be able to bid for them.

Thirdly, I ask the Government to look seriously at the Solar Trade Association’s £1 plan to safeguard the bulk of the industry and to sustain cost reductions that depend on market volume. Fourthly, the Government must stop shilly-shallying and commit to our CCS projects, both in Scotland and in Yorkshire. Finally, the

Government should give their full backing to those councils that this week pledged to make their towns and cities 100% clean by 2050.

Clean energy technologies are an industrial revolution unfolding before our eyes. It is not tomorrow’s world; it is here today and gaining pace. Britain was at the forefront of the 19th-century industrial revolution, and the UK was instrumental in the computer revolution and the development of the internet. This is the industrial revolution that will shape our planet beyond our lifetimes and I urge the Government not to squander this opportunity for the UK to seize the prize.

Several hon. Members rose