Skip to main content

Low-carbon Economy

Volume 607: debated on Thursday 24 March 2016

My Department is committed to providing investors with certainty, and I set out a clear vision for this Government’s energy policy last November in order to achieve just that. In the past month, we have provided certainty on the capacity market, on contracts for difference auctions over the next four years and on taxation for the UK’s oil and gas industry.

As a result of changes in Government policy, Greater Manchester Community Renewables has had to scale back its solar PV project from 20 sites to four, meaning that 16 schools have missed out on solar panels and the local economy has missed out on more than £1 million of investment. It is estimated that there are 8 MW of stalled schemes in Greater Manchester, equating to about £10 million of investment. Is this not an indication that Government policy is in fact leading to a fall in investor confidence?

I do not share the hon. Gentleman’s interpretation. In fact, we have seen increased investment this year in solar and other renewables. We have changed the subsidies on solar, so solar will go forward only where it is well sited and makes a good return for the investors. That is what we have to do as a Government, because we want to strike a balance between supporting renewables and managing consumers’ bills.

Investors in low-carbon energy need clarity and confidence about the energy strategy for the next decade and beyond. The Chancellor could have provided that clarity by setting out the funding in the levy control framework beyond 2020 in last week’s Budget, as 15 of his Conservative colleagues reportedly urged him to do. Does the Secretary of State agree with them that he should have done that, as it would have improved confidence in low-carbon energy?

The hon. Lady will be aware that what the Chancellor did set out in the Budget was certainty on the amount and timing of contracts for difference, which was very welcome for the investment community. There will be further announcements on the levy control framework, but let us bear in mind that the LCF was the first of its kind and that it runs until 2020-21. We have said that we will set out how much will be available in future, but for now the hon. Lady will just have to be a little more patient.

Last September, the independent Committee on Climate Change warned that the Government’s stop-start investment profile was undermining investor confidence and increasing the cost of low-carbon generation. The Secretary of State ignored it. Last month, the Energy and Climate Change Committee reported its concern that increased policy uncertainty was leading to increased risk premiums for investors, which will result in consumers paying more in the long run. Can the Secretary of State look me in the eye and explain exactly how she thinks this ties in with the Prime Minister’s insistence that his Government are safeguarding the interests of future generations?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am quite capable of looking him—and indeed the whole shadow Front Bench—in the eye. I can also assure him that we are absolutely focused, as are the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, on delivering for the future generation and looking after bill payers. This is about getting the right balance and supporting renewable energy until it can stand on its own two feet.