With the Government wilfully undermining the UK’s small but fast-growing solar power sector for the second time, Jonathon Porritt wonders … why the attacks on what is our second lowest cost source of renewable energy, and getting cheaper all the time?
Last Friday was Solar Independence Day. And I felt angry – at this Government’s incomprehensible failure to seize hold of the opportunity to promote the UK’s solar industry as one of the best ways of ensuring a low-carbon, secure, sustainable energy system for our country. Really angry.
In fact, I couldn’t sleep that night for all the unanswerable questions racing through my mind. So I had to get it down that very morning in the form of a letter to Secretary of State Ed Davey andMinister of State Greg Barker. The DECC duo.
First, let’s see if we agree on the facts:
- The UK still needs a whole lot more renewably-generated electricity if we’re to have a hope in hell of meeting our mandatory EU target for 2015. And despite your protestations at the Big Green Week Election Debate, the recently published EU-Tracking Roadmap for renewable energy shows the UK still coming in 26th out of 28 countries, with it providing just 4% of total energy. Despite us having some of the best resources of any country in the EU.
- Many other EU countries have sort-of got the hang of solar. On 21st June, 50% of daytime electricity in Germany was generated by solar power. Italy is going great guns, and the global industry is booming.
- Solar is the second cheapest source of renewables in the UK. Prices have fallen by an astonishing 65% since your Coalition Government came into office, and are projected to continue falling by around 5% per annum through to 2020. I’m sure you’ve worked out the implications of that.
- At that point, subsidy-free solar will be competing on price with every other source of electricity in the UK.
- UK Solar grew by around 15% in 2013, with at least two-thirds of that growth coming from large-scale, ground-mounted solar farms.
- And this means jobs (16,000), generated mostly through vibrant small companies (2,000 of them), creating a new source of wealth for business, farmers and communities. Around 60% of that investment comes from UK businesses – a much higher percentage than with most energy sources.
- Concerns about both energy security (think Iraq, Ukraine etc) and climate change (think 400ppm and ever more extreme weather events) grow and grow. Solar and radical improvements in energy efficiency are both critical elements in addressing these crises.
- Solar is by far the most favoured source of renewable energy in the UK (with 85% approval ratings across the general public), with the highest rate of success in planning applications (again, around 80%).
These are the facts. Even your Chief Scientific Advisor, David McKay, probably recognises by now that he got the potential for solar so badly wrong in his otherwise quite useful ‘Hot Air‘ tome. He is a scientist, after all, and facts are meant to count for something.