Where is the financial support?


October 21, 2011

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Keen to put a damper on RenewableUK next week, somebody in Whitehall thought it best to announce the reduction in financial support for onshore and offshore wind.

We jest. But good news for wave and tidal, and let’s be honest, a reduction in the level of tradable certificates isn’t going to kill the sector overnight. So in that case, is it really just more of a price correction to where government subsidies should originally have been set?

RenewableUK has, of course, asked the Government to maintain the existing reward system, claiming that any reductions may result in certain projects not being able to go ahead.

But that begs a couple of questions. First, should the government always be the underwriter of last resort? Second, should support always be financial?

After all, if there is a national commitment to climate change regulation after 2020, or planning for renewables for the next 50 years, private industry is more likely to invest in developing new technologies, constructing new manufacturing facilities and improving knowledge transfer.

Naturally then, measures that encourage the industry to look at its costs with a focus on improving efficiency, such as those announced by Charles Hendry last week, should be encouraged.

So the big issue once again, is in fact the consumer. None of this deals with the increasing – and very public – problem of rising consumer energy bills. And by proxy, any further discussion of subsidies and government support for nascent energy sectors will fail to win over the general public. We might not like to hear it but if we really want to win with wind, we need to widen the debate and in doing so, capture those hearts and minds.

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