Mixed response from industry to Cameron speech

Industry representatives have greeted Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech to delegates at the Clean Energy Ministerial with mixed feelings.

Whilst both CBI and Grant Thornton saw the positives in Cameron’s pledge to make renewables more ‘financially sustainable’, others criticised him for not going far enough in underlining the government’s support for cleaner energy.

Friends of the Earth is particularly damning of the speech, made yesterday to energy ministers from 23 different countries, arguing that two years down the line from the last election, David Cameron and his party should have done more to fulfil its pledge to be ‘the greenest government ever’.

In stark contrast, CBI felt the prime minister’s words would go a long way in restoring investor confidence and welcomed plans to develop renewable energy possibilities in the North Sea.

Nathan Goode, head of energy, environment and sustainability at Grant Thornton, said: “Cameron has pulled a rabbit out of the hat with his first speech on ‘green issues’. We have confirmation that this government remains committed to a diversified low carbon energy mix which is excellent news. Cameron’s speech set the record straight with regards to his commitment to renewable and clean energy, and outlined concrete plans to take this sector forward into commercialisation.

“The renewables sector has experienced some turbulence in policy support over the last few months. However, today, we see the Government recognises the importance of this sector and I hope that this pledge of support will be seen as a turning point in producing a successful and effective clean energy industry in the UK.”

Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment, said: “The Prime Minister’s intervention, underlining the economic and environmental potential of the green economy, will help to repair investor confidence following recent policy uncertainty.

“The announcement of a new industry partnership in North Sea renewable energy is welcome, as are efforts to help bring down the costs of offshore wind technology. Such costs can fall on both households and businesses and must be managed if we are to make the move to a low-carbon economy a reality.”

Rolf Stein, ceo of Advanced Plasma Power, added: “Today’s speech from David Cameron is a welcome reiteration of the Government’s commitment to the renewables industry.

“David Cameron’s announcement hopefully marks an acceleration in government support for renewables.  As the UK economy returns to recession, measures such as these will allow the green energy sector to meet its full potential and help us to deliver a triple whammy of job-creation, capital investment and lower carbon emissions.”

With a more critical stance, Mark Kenber, ceo of The Climate Group, said: “Yesterday it was confirmed that the UK is now again in recession. The economy isn’t growing. Unemployment is rising. Now, more than ever, we need to support those sectors of the economy that are actually growing and are creating jobs.

“Today’s speech by the Prime Minister could have been a clear message that the UK is open for green business. It should have sent a clear signal to investors. Especially after two years of Prime-Ministerial silence – it did not.

“Instead it effectively reiterated the false dichotomy between ‘non-affordable’ renewables and ‘affordable’ fossil fuels, in effect cementing the government’s clear preference for the latter. Today the PM sided with those in his government that feel that the green agenda is a burden. It is a costly, short-sighted error of judgement.”

Finally, Friends of the Earth’s executive director, Andy Atkins, said: “This falls a long way short of the green speech David Cameron should have given – tipping his hat to the need for a cleaner future and recycling a few announcements just won’t measure up.

“While the nation is in recession, the green economy is growing at four per cent – developing clean British energy enjoys huge public support and could provide thousands of new jobs and cut fuel bills.

“Shortly after coming to power the Prime Minister promised to lead the ‘greenest Government ever’ – almost two years later we’re still waiting for him to spell out how he’s going to achieve this.”