Energy Secretary Amber Radd fielding questions in the Energy and Climate Change Committee today, 10th November 2015. Photo: still from parliamentlive.tv.
Facing legal action, strong support for solar and wind, Rudd refuses to reverse cuts
10th November 2015
Despite strong public support for wind and solar power in an official survey published today, the UK's likely failure to meet its EU renewable energy target, and an impending legal challenge, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd today told MPs she would not be reversing recent cuts, writes Oliver Tickell.
To create jobs and tackle climate change, the UK should be leading the way on clean home-grown energy. Ministers must get a grip and urgently act to ensure we meet all of our renewable energy targets.
Polling by the Department of Energy and Climate Change shows that over three quarters of people - 76% - support renewable energy in the UK.
Solar energy is the most popular of all energy generation technologies with 80% support. Even onshore wind, widely attacked in the UK's right-wing media, enjoys the support of two thirds of respondents.
"Support for renewable energy has been consistently high during the tracker at around 75-80%", the survey found. "Opposition to renewables was very low at 5%, with only 1% strongly opposed.
"Support for onshore wind has also increased slightly since it was last included in polling 6 months ago, rising from 65% to 66%, despite the Government's decision to end financial support for future onshore wind projects."
Leonie Greene, Head of External Affairs at the Solar Trade Association said: "These very high levels of public support for solar show yet again that this sunshine technology is the nation's favourite source of energy.
"No other technology empowers consumers and communities to take charge of their energy bill and act on climate change like solar power. By cutting support for solar the government is taking power away from people, organisations and communities all over the UK - and they don't like it one bit."
Meanwhile, Government admits renewables policy fail
But news of the popularity of renewables comes at an awkward time for Amber Rudd, Energy Secretary. She has pushed through a series of huge cuts aimed at renewables, targetting onshore wind and solar in particular.
And yesterday The Ecologist published a leaked letter from Rudd in which she admitted that the UK was set to miss its EU renewable energy target of sourcing 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 by 25%, a gap of 50 TWh (terawatt hours) per year.
Questioned by the the Energy and Climate Change Committee today Rudd at first faced a stinging rebuke from its chairman: "We have looked at the leaked material and your previous statements to the House and our assessment is that whether or not it was your intention to mislead, there was indeed some misleading use of language ... so can we begin by bringing some clarity?"
She then admitted the UK does not have the right policies in place to meet its EU target. The letter published by The Ecologist, stating that the UK was on track to get just 11.5% of energy from renewables by 2020, was accurate, she conceded.
But she astonished MPs by denying that the cuts to solar and wind power had contributed to the UK's trajectory to miss its EU renewable energy target, and insisting that the shortfall must be filled by renewable heat, and by more biofuels in petrol and diesel:
"It's my aim we should meet the 2020 target. I recognise we don't have the right policies, particularly in transport and heat, but we have four to five years and I remain committed to making the target."
And she refused to consider any reversal of the cuts to renewable electricity from solar and onshore wind that she has already pushed through: "I think it would be a mistake to abandon heat and transport, they need to make their contribution on the renewable targets."
Friends of the Earth warns of legal challenge
Meanwhile the government faces a legal challenge from Friends of the Earth if it fails to put in place a credible plan for meeting its 2020 renewables targets.
The UK got 20% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2014, but will need much more if it is to reach its overall energy targets, said Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Alasdair Cameron:
"Without serious additional action the UK is on course to miss its legally binding renewable energy targets for 2020 - and recently proposed cuts to support for wind and solar technologies will make matters worse.
"We will be writing to the Government to set out our concerns and warn of the potential legal consequences if its renewable energy action plan is inadequate. Renewable energy is the future - the Government must get on board and help build the low carbon, affordable economy we so urgently need."
The Green Party MP Caroline Lucas MP said the government's energy policies were "in tatters", adding: "To create jobs and tackle climate change, the UK should be leading the way on clean home-grown energy. Ministers must get a grip and urgently act to ensure we meet all of our renewable energy targets."
RenewableUK's Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith said: "We hope that ministers will look at these figures carefully and listen to what the thousands of voters who took part in this official Government poll are telling them.
"If the Government is worried about meeting its renewable energy targets, wind can help make up the shortfall. It makes sense to reduce our dependence on imports and to tackle climate change using our superb home-grown resources."
Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.
Petition: Debate a vote of no confidence in Rt Hon Amber Rudd Sec of State (DECC).
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