Sadly, the heady days of Tory detoxification and the Tory party’s once-proclaimed support for feed-in tariffs and UK renewables seems like a lifetime ago now.
Once, the Conservative Party wanted to lead on delivering a world-leading green economy fit for the 21st Century. Today, industry leaders scratch their heads in bewilderment and disbelief at your rushed policy U-turns that are doing so much damage to thousands of green UK businesses.
Since 7 May, you’ve wasted no time unleashing an ideological assault against the green economy in general and solar in particular. Around 35,000 jobs in a fantastic British success story are now at stake. More generally, within five short months of the election, you have undermined the global reputation of the UK as a safe place to invest in renewables, and by extension, therefore, risk undermining investor confidence in all other UK infrastructure projects.
You say that you want to deliver “value for money” for “hard-working British families” but think the solution rests with building the world’s most expensive nuclear power station. The same warped approach to delivering “value for money” leads you to provide multibillion pound subsidies to foreign fracking companies, while simultaneously cutting the legs from under the UK’s solar industry, a largely British SME-led sector responsible for huge investment and innovation in the UK. British solar and other great UK green sectors were supposed to be the flipside of austerity. And yet within five months of the election of a majority Conservative government, the daily toll of business closures and redundancies in the British renewables sector is now growing. This is all the more baffling given the UK government’s continuing insistence that it will be playing a leading role in Paris and in the global fight against climate change.You can’t do that whilst simultaneously destroying the very businesses at home that are central to delivering a decentralised and sustainable energy system of the type the Conservative Party once proudly championed.
It’s not too late for you to drop the ideological war against renewables. If not, it’s inevitable that companies such as Solarcentury will increasingly focus our efforts overseas, taking jobs and expertise out of the UK. Many of our competitors however, particularly those wholly exposed to the UK market, will not be so fortunate. There have already been business failures and well over one thousand redundancies in the UK solar sector as a direct result of your policy decisions, with many thousands more set to follow, unless the government now rethinks its approach. It’s not often that the CBI, the Mayor of London, Energy UK, the National Farmers Union, the TUC, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are all allied in opposition to government policy. That should tell you something.
Dr Jeremy Leggett, author, activist and founder of Solarcentury, the UK’s largest independent solar electric company
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