With future of the Swansea lagoon still in doubt, it is interesting to read in the Independent yesterday that the withdrawal of government support and confusion around future investments have led to a “dramatic and worrying collapse” in green investment.
This is a complete reversal of the very positive investment in renewables and green technology started under the Liberal Democrats in the coalition government. It is yet more evidence of the Tories reverting to type once they cease to be moderated by a more radical party with a real commitment to the environment and to tackling climate change.
The paper says that despite widespread popular support for renewables, running at 85 per cent, according to the latest figures, annual investment in clean energy is now at its lowest point in a decade.
Labour’s shadow minister for energy and climate change says that: “It’s clear there is a substantial downward trend in new investment, which is across the board in terms of investment in clean technology ranging from big wind farms right down to the effective collapse of the solar market.”
It is a view supported by the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee. In their report MPs warned this decline posed a real threat to the UK’s climate change targets for the next decade:
Committee chair Mary Creagh said this week: “Billions of pounds of investment is needed in clean energy, transport, heating and industry.
“But a dramatic fall in investment is threatening the government’s ability to meet legally binding climate change targets.”
This downward trend can be traced to decisions made by the government in 2015, particularly its withdrawal of support for onshore wind.
Under pressure from a group of MPs calling onshore wind “inefficient and intermittent”, the Conservatives made a manifesto pledge to remove subsidies from new onshore wind projects.
“It’s one of these issues that had a very niche political purpose, which was to assuage the concerns of some marginal consistencies in England, and to give the public more of a say over infrastructure in their neighbourhoods,” says Whitehead.
However, what was not clear at that time was that the cost of onshore wind was set to plummet, making it the cheapest form of electricity generation.
Unfortunately, the withdrawal of support and subsequent policy changes mean onshore wind is now essentially banned in the UK, with planning applications for new developments plummeting by 94 per cent since 2015.
At the same time, a 65 per cent cut to subsidies for households installing solar panels and a budget that declined to provide new support for renewables before 2025 led to new private investments falling off a cliff.
If this continues then the Government’s own climate change targets will become unattainable.