Baroness Featherstone: The Tories continue to attack the planet
By Derek Deedman in Liberal Democrat Voice Baroness Featherstone
Ahead of her regret motion on cuts to the Renewables Obligation, Liberal Democrat peer Lynne Featherstone accuses the Government of launching a "brutal assault" on renewable energy.
It was not too long ago that the Liberal Democrats in the Lords led a vote in defence of feed in tariffs, a policy introduced by the Lib Dems in the last Government to boost a burgeoning solar industry. Now the Tory assault has got personal, they have moved their focus on to people's homes, attacking the small scale roof top solar panels that dot our residential landscape.
We have sadly lost the battle against the extraordinarily steep and abrupt removal of the feed-in tariffs for solar, wind and hydro. We have desperately tried to get this government to understand not only the seriousness of this in terms of moving towards a low carbon future that allows us to meet our legally binding targets, but also the depth to which investor confidence has been undermined in the renewable sector and the long term, negative impact on the economy that this has caused.
It is deeply saddening to see so much of the good work achieved by the Coalition Government, of which I served as a minister, unravelled by the current Government. What is clear is that this work, which saw the tripling of electricity from renewable sources and made Britain the fastest growing green economy in Europe, was led by one side of the Coalition, the Liberal Democrats, and not embraced by the other. The Conservative Government's actions since May 2015 demonstrate that there is no genuine commitment to the green agenda from their part, at all.
I do not have the space to list the full litany of destruction that has been wrought since the election by this government but it includes such worrying measures as privatising the Green Investment Bank, ending support for onshore wind power, weakening the zero carbon homes standard, and reducing the incentives to purchase low-emission cars.
Now to add to that list we have rooftop solar, a cornerstone of the Solar Strategy produced in April 2014. The tariff that has been set for the 1-5MW solar band is much too low to incentivise rooftop deployment in that size range, leaving larger rooftops with essentially no route to market. The large-scale rooftop market is potentially the most significant and cost-effective solar market. This market dominates across Europe and is expected to reach grid parity first, and yet the UK is not taking this market seriously.
Community energy groups are also being thrown to the dogs. A policy fostered by the last Government, and then forsaken by this one. Many opportunities were created for local communities to share in the economic benefits of local renewable projects, and yet the Tories continue to trample over all green initiatives before them.
This is a Government that recently signed the wonderful Paris agreement, an agreement that should have seen us embrace the green agenda with open arms. Instead we are forced to hunker down, putting our heads above the parapet when we can to make a stand against the latest brutal assault. Today we will make another stand. I fear it won't be the last.
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