A lack of clarity from the government on its green energy strategy is costing the UK jobs and undermining competitiveness, according to unions and sector bodies, which have called for the coalition to take action or risk irreparable damage to the reputation of the sector.
This week, Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady said that the government’s “dithering” over laying out a clear and concise energy and climate policy means that companies are losing interest in investing.
The result could be that the country’s renewables framework fails to take off and consumers and businesses ultimately lose out as new methods of generating energy are overlooked in favour of a reliance on fossil fuel, which shows little sign of an imminent price reduction.
Speaking at the TUC’s Growing the Green Economy event in London, Ms O’Grady reiterated that unions and businesses alike are keen to develop a low carbon economy, but this desire is being stifled by a lack of clarity from the government, which has still yet to issue a consistent green energy policy.
“With the economy flatlining and the government failing to deliver the industrial rebalancing it promised, we urgently need to invest in and grow our low-carbon industries. If we do not build a greener economy we will simply not be able to compete in the long-term,” she added.
“Unions want to work in partnership with industry to build a greener, more sustainable economy that delivers the good, skilled jobs that Britain is crying out for. As recent TUC research shows, investment in green growth really would pay dividends in terms of jobs.”
Chancellor George Osborne and Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey have reportedly clashed over the eagerly anticipated Energy Bill, which is set for imminent publication, but the coalition says that it could drive more than £100 billion of low carbon investment by 2020.
A government spokeswoman told Business Green that the government has thought carefully about the Bill, and rejected the TUC’s claims it is “dithering” over the implementation of the policies.
“This government has introduced the most radical reforms to the electricity market seen since privatisation; reforms that will bring on a record £110 billion in new energy infrastructure, supporting new supply chains and thousands of jobs in communities up and down the country,” the government representative added.
“Within the Energy Bill we have also legislated to introduce a 2030 decarbonisation target for the power sector, and have put in place a new framework of support that will provide long-term certainty and stability to investors in low-carbon generation”.
The TUC has now said it is “vital” that energy-intensive industries receive the financial support they require to ease the transition into a low-carbon age.
The body welcomed the government’s pledge to provide £250 million of support to the energy intensive sector, but noted that the German government’s offer to provide £8 billion of assistance to its industries means the UK is effectively playing catch-up, and may fall further behind unless the coalition is willing to support green initiatives financially.
As Ms O’Grady concluded: “When it comes to growing the green economy, things can’t be done on the cheap.”