Judging by the headlines, renewable energy in Britain is booming. Barely a week goes by without news that wind power has overtaken nuclear or the country has gone another successive day without coal. Yet these figures obscure a reality in which the withdrawal of government support and confusion around future investments have led to a “dramatic and worrying collapse” in green investment. Critics say the government has created a “hostile environment” for renewable energy that scares away potential investors and preve nts the UK from reaching its full potential. The arrival of the Climate Change Act in 2008 and the subsequent rollout of electricity market reforms saw the UK become a world leader in renewables, particularly wind power. “We had a very clear policy framework from 2008 and that has been less certain in recent years,” says Emma Pinchbeck, executive director at trade association RenewableUK. “That explains why we have had record-breaking deployment as things come online from that previous policy framework, but why now we are looking at a dropoff.” There tends to be a lag of five to 10 years between a project being funded and it coming online, which is why we are only now experiencing the benefits of this early investment period. Despite widespread popular support for renewables – 85 per cent, according to the latest figures – annual investment in clean energy is now at its lowest point in a decade. This is not all bad, according to Phil MacDonald at climate change think tank Sandbag: “The dropoff in investment partly hides a good news story, which is that renewables have fallen in cost dramatically,” he says. Improvements in wind and solar technology now mean the UK is getting more renewable energy for less money, but this does not account for the decline in its entirety. “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,” says Dr Alan Whitehead, Labour’s shadow minister for energy and climate change. In a report published this week by the Environmental Audit Committee, MPs warned this decline posed a real threat to the UK’s climate change targets for the next decade.
Independent 19th May 2018 read more »