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The dismal record of Conservative energy policy

David Cameron's vow to lead the 'greenest government ever' is lying in tatters in the aftermath of a raft of environmental measures either axed or facing significant cuts.

 

Last week the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon looked set to become the latest scheme to fall victim to the Conservative austerity drive as government ministers bid to slash the renewable energy budget. The green energy project was hit by a fresh delay after ministers announced a wide-ranging review into the untested technology.With every month that passes it appears increasingly likely that the scheme will ultimately be consigned into the history books as just another Tory manifesto pledge screw-up.

 

The announcement follows a long line of policy blunders on renewables which profoundly undermine David Cameron's credibility on tackling climate change.

 

In the past nine months, a number of authorised sanctions for overwhelming cuts to renewable energy subsidies have rendered the market for the most cost-effective environmental policies all but defunct.State assistance, deriving from a levy on household fuel bills, is seen as an unnecessary taxpayer burden by the incumbent government which has ordered energy technologies to "stand on their own two feet."

 

This staggeringly backwards approach to green energy is in acute contradiction to UK's leading role in demanding for climate change reduction on the international stage.

 

Only days after agreeing to move swiftly to a low-carbon energy future at the Paris summit, UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd announced that UK aid for the solar panel industry is to be slashed by 65%. This hammer blow for the most popular energy technology was a bewildering act in the light of government estimates that as many as 18,700 solar jobs could be lost as a result of subsidy changes.

 

Subsidy cuts have already had a disastrous effect on the sector. In October the UK's largest solar panel provider, The Mark Group, collapsed into liquidation, costing nearly 1,000 workers their jobs.

 

The organisation was unambiguous in its belief of where the responsibility lies - the state's “draconian policy proposals… will essentially eliminate the solar PV market in the UK." Furthermore, government proposals in the Energy Bill aim to close the Renewables Obligation subsidy scheme for new onshore wind farms, the cheapest form of green energy.

 

Along with substantial job losses to the industry, the plans will almost certainly jeopardise the 1,000 wind turbines awaiting planning permission which cannot make a profit without a government grant.

 

The subsidy cuts have had a damaging impact on Britain's reputation as an attractive renewable energy market with the UK's energy rating downgraded by the World Energy Council and investment plummeting.

 

The case for economic expediency is a perplexing justification – government climate change advisers have stated that onshore wind and large solar farms are likely to be competitive on cost with gas-fired power generation by the end of this decade.

 

While the cheap and successful renewables sector bare the brunt of intense austerity measures, ministers are throwing vast subsidies at fossil fuels and failed, expensive nuclear power. A report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) found that the UK is the only G7 country dramatically increasing its fossil fuel subsidies despite an earlier pledge to phase them out. Moreover, new tax breaks for North Sea oil and gas production announced by the chancellor, George Osborne, earlier in 2015 will cost taxpayers a further £1.7bn by 2020, according to governmentfigures.

 

Plans to push through the controversial practice of fracking underneath national parks and protected areas further highlight a flagrant disregard of 21st century environmental considerations in the face of major public opposition.

 

Taking into consideration reduced support for solar power and energy efficiency, and increased handouts to oil and gas major in spite of supposed budget constraints, David Cameron's vow to lead the 'greenest government ever' is gradually becoming the biggest joke in UK politics. 

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