Industry slams ‘budget from last century’

Members of the industry have criticised chancellor George Osborne for not doing enough in the 2013 budget to stimulate investment in renewable technologies.

Against a challenging economic back drop, in which the UK economy’s growth forecast has been halved to just 0.6 per cent, many in the sector believe that the chancellor has ignored a low carbon economy poised to deliver jobs and increased output.

Whilst tax breaks have been handed down to developers of shale gas, there were no specific announcements aimed at delivering fresh investment needed to bring new renewable energy generation capacity online.

Greenpeace executive director, John Sauven, said: “This was a twentieth-century budget for a twentieth-first century economy. We got tax breaks for polluters and almost complete disinterest in the green economy, one of the only sectors that has consistently delivered jobs and growth in recent years. British businesses stand poised to become dominant forces in the global clean energy market, but they’re being undermined by a chancellor who seems increasingly ill-suited to the times we live in. This man lacks a vision.

“Bungs to the gas industry make it harder for Britain to meet its climate targets and stifle the low carbon sector, which provided one third of all UK growth between 2011-2012. Green jobs and investment are at risk here. George Osborne needs to stop playing Britain’s JR Ewing and instead back the shift to carbon free energy, which will create jobs and be cleaner, safer and cheaper over time.”

Mark Kenber, ceo of The Climate Group, said: “The chancellor’s budget and his statement today were really a mixed bag for the all those that believe in the UK’s low carbon future.

“It’s a pleasant surprise to actually hear the chancellor mentioning the need for a low carbon economy. Still, he keeps on making the fundamental mistake of thinking that investment in renewable energy and cleantech “costs” jobs. There is solid evidence from every corner of the world that investment in the low carbon economy actually creates jobs and increases productivity. 

“What Britain needs is a clear, low carbon, high growth strategy for the future. A strategy where we do not just build “infrastructure” but the right infrastructure to lower emissions, lower electricity bills and increase energy efficiency. A strategy that will help CCS become a credible growth industry for the UK. A strategy where gas has a future – not as a panacea for all our economic ills but as a way to replace coal and help us to smooth our transition to a low carbon future. A strategy that features prominently renewable energy and smart grids – all missing from the Chancellor’s statement today.”

RenewableUK director of policy, Dr Gordon Edge, said: “Low-carbon infrastructure projects will help us future-proof our economy and reduce what we have to pay to import expensive fossil fuels. Offshore wind is a proven technology which we have the opportunity to lead the world in and help us win the ‘global race’ that the Chancellor spoke about – it should be a real priority for govt to drive forward in our energy mix. With offshore wind we know what our resource is and what it’ll cost to develop, compared to less proven technologies. We hope that the upcoming offshore industrial strategy will recognise this and bring forward concrete measures to ensure that the maximum economic benefits can accrue to the UK.”

REA chief executive, Gaynor Hartnell, said: “In response to Lord Heseltine’s call, the budget referred to the Energy Bill, but our members are sceptical that the new regime will bring forward the major investments needed. We are working with DECC to resolve this, but there are no guarantees at this stage. The chancellor missed an opportunity today to ensure us that there is consistent, strong support for our sector across government.”

STA head of external affairs, Leonie Greene, said: “The chancellor’s fixation with old technologies flies in the face of mainstream evidence. The World Bank said last year that business as usual in the face of climate change presents an international crisis. Rising fossil fuel prices are impacting on inflation and household energy bills. Ofgem analysis shows a gas supply crunch is coming our way, increasing prices. For all these reasons, it is vital to divert energy infrastructure investment into renewables as quickly as possible.

“Renewable technologies like solar need bold leadership and a positive vision if we’re to compete successfully in the global race the prime minister keeps highlighting. We’re on a path to nowhere if his chancellor continues to ignore climate change, the economic potential of the green economy, and the dangerous upward trajectory of fossil fuel prices.”

John Peters, managing director of Engage Consulting, said: “We were pleased to see that the budget included some positives for the energy industry and the environment, with tax incentives for ultra-low emission cars and tax allowances for investment in shale gas.

“Mr Osborne stressed that creating a low-carbon economy should be done in a way that creates jobs and not costs, however, he didn’t explain how this should be done and also didn’t talk about investment in renewable energy as being part of his plans, which will disappoint many in that sector.”