Tory grandee Lord Heseltine’s call for a ‘definitive and unambiguous’ energy strategy for the UK has been welcomed by Stourbridge expert Colin Priest.
“The former cabinet minister’s comments are very timely,” said Colin, who lives in Quarry Bank and works for Noreus Ltd in Stafford. “If the Government wants us to encourage people to go green then we need a clear policy direction which we have not had, particularly during the past 12 months.”
He was responding to Heseltine’s wide-ranging blueprint for stimulating growth, entitled No Stone Unturned, which was published last Wednesday.
The respected Conservative said that without the ‘real certainty’ of a long-term energy policy, investors would ‘simply not risk the enormous sums of capital’ needed to develop the UK’s energy infrastructure.
He was supported by accountants Ernst & Young, who published a separate report last week which said that although investment in the UK energy sector in the past four years had been at a 20-year high, such levels would not be maintained without clear policy direction from the Government.
Heseltine’s report cited regulator Ofgem’s forecast that over the next 10 to 15 years £200 billion of investment would be needed for new infrastructure to meet energy demand and to hit carbon reduction targets.
“The Government needs a clear and consistent long-term energy policy to show what our projected needs will be and how they will be met, by when and by whom,” the report added, saying these problems would not go away.
Colin agreed but added householders, as well as industry leaders, needed direction. He said that constant changes in such matters as the Feed-in Tariffs payments - the money the Government pays residents for generating electricity from installing solar panels - had not helped residents nor the industry plan for the long-term.
“These are big investments for people which require a lot of thought and planning, but often they are rushed into a decision because of deadlines over constant reductions in FiT payments,” he added. For example, he said that last Thursday (November 1) the Feed-in Tariffs scheme was reduced from 16p to 15.5p per kilowatt hour (Kwh) for the average home with systems smaller than 4 kilowatt for 20 years.
This had dropped consistently since less than a year ago when the FiT paid 43.3p per kilowatt hour of solar power in December 2011, and that was for 25 years.
However, Colin admitted that the costs of the panels and the installation had come down with increased competition.
But also in that time he said many solar panel firms and jobs had been lost due to the uncertainty in the industry. “So the sooner there is a definitive and unambiguous energy policy, the better for everyone,” he concluded.
But to show how difficult this could be was highlighted last week when a junior Tory energy minister, John Hayes, said onshore wind farms had been ‘peppered around the country’ with little or no regard for local opinion.
His comments that existing sites and those in the pipeline would be enough to meet green commitments with no need for any more led to a row with his boss. Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey, an enthusiastic advocate of renewable energy, who reminded Mr Hayes that he does not decide Government policy.
For more details about energy-saving call Colin on 0845 474 6641.