Dear Dave, what are you doing?!
With the Department of Energy and Climate Change publishing their devastating proposals for the Feed-in Tariff scheme we’ve written to the Prime Minister to ask him to explain his government’s policy. We don’t hold out much hope for a response but needed to get this off our chest! If we get a reply we’ll publish that too.
Here’s the letter sent today (1st September):
“Dear Mr Cameron,
I am writing to you for an explanation and justification of your government’s attitude towards solar power given the catastrophic proposals outlined in the consultation document published by DECC on Thursday 27th August.
The justification given by your minister Amber Rudd for the consultation proposals is to minimise the energy costs for hard working families. However this explanation for your government’s motivation does not stand up to scrutiny (as discussed below) and can only therefore be described as disingenuous at best or simply untrue and dishonest at worst.
Firstly, the proposals are intended to limit the total amount payable in support to renewable energy technologies via the Levy Control Framework and yet the LCF was an arbitrary cap set by your own government in the first instance and so is, in itself, not clearly justified. It is therefore a meaningless circular argument.
As regards impact on consumers’ energy bills, the estimated addition to energy bills represented by existing solar installations is £10 a year (just 0.7% of the average annual domestic energy bill). This is made up of £7 from installations under the feed-in tariff scheme and £3 under the renewables obligation. As there is nothing you can do to reduce this cost (without totally undermining the UK’s credibility for overseas investment), your proposals can only apply to future installations. That £7 has funded some 700,000 systems on homes along with some commercial and larger scale systems. In comparison the Solar Trade Association has submitted proposals which would enable a further 1,000,000 solar roofs to be created for the additional sum of only £1.70 per annum by 2020. This is a minuscule amount and represents only 0.2% of the average energy bill. Comparatively that is remarkable value for money and is because the industry is becoming rapidly more efficient. Furthermore, it is estimated that in 2020 with stable support the industry would complete the transition to a zero-subsidy industry. We would then have a World leading industry with the ability to cover all the remaining suitable roofs in the UK (in excess of 10,000,000) with solar without any public subsidy whatsoever. The solar industry would be able to deliver the clean, carbon free energy this country needs and do so cheaply. We would have a UK industry at the forefront of what Deutsche Bank estimates will be $5trillion industry by 2035.
There is also emerging evidence that renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind are actually suppressing (i.e. keeping down) wholesale energy prices which serve to negate the direct support they receive. So limiting the deployment of renewables will actually INCREASE energy bills and yet no account is being taken of this effect.
Instead, your government’s policy is to completely, prematurely and unjustifiably extinguish the UK’s solar industry just when it is on the cusp of achieving that zero subsidy goal and put at risk in excess of 30,000 high quality jobs which support hard-working families (an impact not even considered in any detail in DECC’s impact analysis). Your policy includes placing an even greater burden on consumers’ energy bills through the support being offered to the Chinese and French consortium building Hinkley Point C. A development even the Daily Telegraph has described as a white elephant which will place a costly burden on every man, woman and child in this country for more than 50 years.
Amber Rudd is on record as saying, in respect of Hinkley Point C, that it is worth paying the higher cost of base-load generation (an inconsistent statement itself if the policy intent is to limit energy bills). By 2020 subsidy-free solar with other renewables such as wind, combined with gas-fired generation and the emergence of large-scale electricity storage, could provide not only cost effective base-load but also the cheap, low carbon and highly flexible generation capacity this nation so urgently needs. Solar can also be deployed quickly (unlike nuclear), is easy to decommission, is flexible, is non-controversial and is popular (DECC’s own studies show it has 80% public approval). With the recent announcement of the development of the Culzean gas field in the North Sea, this energy vision could also be achieved without fracking up our UK countryside as well.
It is also worth noting that many other nations, especially the US, are embracing solar and yet the UK is heading in the opposite direction. It would appear this will be one more example of the UK throwing away an opportunity to be a world leader in a particular industry/technology. History is littered with many such examples and successive UK governments don’t seem to learn. Why aren’t you?
As I have clearly demonstrated, your government’s policy towards solar makes no economic, financial or logical sense hence my request for your explanation and justification. I have never been one for conspiracy theories but the only explanation I have been able to come up for your government’s proposals is that, ideologically, you do not want the proletariat, the common hard-working man and woman, generating their own electricity using such a democratic technology as solar. Instead, you want us all subservient to your big-business supporters. I would be most grateful if you could dis-prove my theory.
I look forward to your response, which does not seek to use the justification of keeping consumers’ bills down as that simply does not wash. I need to be able to rationalise government policy so I can explain it to my employees who may soon lose their jobs.
I have copied in my constituency MP, Ken Clarke. I voted Conservative during this year’s election because, naively it would seem, I was of the opinion you finally grasped the economic benefits of a low-carbon economy. I won’t be making the same mistake ever again.