UK’s top business brands call on PM to support clean energy

Ten leading businesses, including Tesco, BT, and M&S, have written to David Cameron on the eve before a crucial climate summit asking for stable policies and adequate funding to support Britain’s clean energy sector.

In a letter sent on Friday the major business brands warned Cameron that frequent changes to the government’s energy policy undermine investor confidence and affect the UK’s ability to compete in the global low-carbon sector.

The intervention comes after a raft of controversial government cuts to home efficiency and clean energy schemes.

The companies, which together employ over a million people worldwide and include business giants such as Unilever, Nestlé, IKEA, and Panasonic, are urging the UK government to adopt ‘a gradual phase-out of support’ for clean power – as opposed to the steep cuts currently being proposed.

Their call stands in sharp contrast with government proposals to slash the feed-in tariff – a crucial funding mechanism for small-scale renewable energy projects – by 87 per cent early next year. The proposed cuts have already come under fire from a string of high-profile figures including Al Gore, the UN chief environment scientist, the chair of the Climate Change Committee, and the London mayor Boris Johnson.

Solar industry representatives predict that over 20,000 jobs could be lost as a result of the sharp cuts. Over 1,000 jobs have already been lost as four major solar companies have shut down their UK operations or gone bankrupt blaming government energy policy.

In the letter the companies, which also include Vodafone, Kingfisher and Thames Water, warn Cameron that ‘regular changes to the policy environment undermine confidence in investment in infrastructure of all kinds and impact on the UK’s ability to continue competing in the rapidly growing global low-carbon sector.’

The companies call on David Cameron to be more ambitious when it comes to renewable energy deployment. They write: “As we approach the Paris Climate Conference, the latest government figures show renewable energy already accounts for nearly a quarter of the UK’s electricity. We believe that much more can be achieved in terms of deployment, cost reduction and supply chain benefits.”

The letter, promoted by Greenpeace, also urges the prime minister to ‘put forward policies to support the growth of the UK renewables sector through the 2020s’ as well as setting ‘an appropriately sized budget for the Levy Control Framework in the post 2020 period as soon as possible.’

Shinichiro Ishihara, Manager at Panasonic EU, said: “As we approach these crucial Paris climate talks, we urge the UK government to immediately open a dialogue with the UK solar industry and reevaluate these proposed cuts to the country’s Feed-in Tariff and the substantial damage they will cause.

“Our solar industry is maturing and we’ve made fantastic strides making a real difference for UK homeowners, but let’s not push the bird out of the nest before it can properly fly.”

Dame Fiona Kendrick, Chairman and CEO, Nestlé UK & Ireland said: “As a signatory to RE100, Nestlé is committed to achieving 100% renewable electricity across all of its operations. In order to achieve this in the UK & Ireland in the shortest timescale possible, we recognise the importance of having an enabling and stable policy environment to support business in achieving such ambitious goals.”

Barbara Stoll, Greenpeace UK Senior Energy Campaigner, said: “When Britain’s leading businesses tell David Cameron that backing clean energy makes business sense, he should listen. Green jobs and firms have already been lost because of incoherent government policies, but now concerns are spreading far beyond the energy sector.

“All these companies are asking for is a bit more clarity, certainty, and a long-term plan to support our clean energy sector for a few more years until it can go subsidy free. The climate summit gives Cameron an opportunity to take this on board.”

Paul Barwell, CEO for the Solar Trade Association, said: “This letter shows that the Prime Minister’s decisions on solar and cuts to feed-in tariffs go further than just the renewables industry, further than just the energy industry. They impact the economy as a whole – these companies are seriously big players in the business world. UK plc is planning for the long-term, and wants Cameron to do the same.”