The UK would miss a trick with Ikea


January 16, 2017

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Ikea has pledged to be a net exporter of renewable power by 2020, so there is good reason to feel confident that it is serious about investing in wind energy.

And that also means we should take it seriously when it says it is not going to invest, as it has this week. Specifically, the Swedish furniture giant has declared that it will not invest in renewables in the UK due to lack of government support for wind.

Ikea is only one company – but, in this area, it is an influential one. The retailer has invested €1.5bn in renewable energy projects across the world in the last 20 years and it plans to spend other €600m by 2020.

Wind is a big part of that. For example, in 2015, Ikea created a €1bn green fund for climate action with the collaboration of its charitable arm Ikea Foundation, which specifically allocated €600m of it to new wind and solar installations.

But according to Joanna Yarrow, UK’s head of sustainability at Ikea, none of that €600m would go to the UK, unless the Government decided to give more support to the onshore wind sector. She says she is baffled by the approach of UK leaders.

“The UK has a fantastic wind profile, it is one of the best places in the world to generate energy via wind, but the context that we’re operating in, the political context, doesn’t encourage that investment. So we’re having to take it elsewhere.” she said in an interview with the Huffington Post.

This is a demonstration that the UK’s approach to sustainability over the last 18 months, since the Conservative Party won a majority in the 2015 general election, is stifling investment in wind even from companies that are big supporters of the sector.

Let’s reiterate the key point here: government figures show that onshore wind is the cheapest form of renewable energy available in the UK, however since 1 April 2016 the Government has decided to stop subsiding onshore wind farms to support instead newer, more expensive technologies like tidal lagoons.

It is up to the government what to do with taxpayers’ money, of course – but Ikea has shown that the attitude of UK leaders is also affecting the investment plans of private businesses and harming private investment in renewables.

Apple, Facebook and Google are among the big companies who have committed to power their data centres and corporate offices from renewable energy, and they are not the only ones. We are seeing more businesses looking at how they can use wind and other renewables to power their operations, but they can only do so in the UK if there is political will from the country’s leaders.

Ikea’s intervention suggests that there will be a link between support for renewables and inward investment. Is this what is needed to finally make UK leaders take note?

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