With its “it’s the economy, stupid” message dominating the Conservative election campaign, the environment was never going to get much of a look-in.
While the Tory manifesto did promise to provide start-up funding to new renewable technologies and research projects, it made absolutely no mention of the future for solar power. A further worry was the intention to pull all subsidies for onshore wind.
So, while the election has provided certainty in one way with the Tories achieving a majority Government, it has left the renewables industry seeking some long-term assurances and commitments from newly appointed Energy Secretary Amber Rudd.
While there have undoubtedly been some rocky moments for our industry during the five years of Coalition Government, there were signs – particularly in the last couple of years – that the Conservatives understood the importance of renewable energy in helping to tackle some of the big energy and climate change issues the UK – and the world in general – faces.
In the immediate aftermath of Thursday night’s election results, Leonie Greene of the Solar Trade Association commented: “Tory Ministers have been strong advocates of roof-mounted solar. 650,000 solar roofs is a world class achievement. My sense is that there has been growing frustration among the Tory Ministers at the marginalising of solar compared to more expensive technologies.”
Greene went on to make the important point that while the role of the incoming Ms Rudd will be crucial, so will that of newly appointed Business Secretary Sajid Javid and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark. A big trumpet fanfare for the removal of Eric Pickles from the Communities and Local Government brief, hopefully Greg Clarke will be a more amenable Minister, to solar at least.
As far as we are aware, all three of these Ministers come to our sector baggage-free, which means it will be interesting to listen to any early pronouncements in their new roles.
The Manifesto may have been devoid of vision for our industry, but there is an opportunity for this new and emboldened majority Government to make the renewables sector one of the key areas for its first 100-day policy blitz.
Like many people working in our sector, I endorse the words of Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association, when she said: “With the 2020 targets on the horizon, we now call on David Cameron and the incoming Government to take the measures required to enable the renewable energy industry to play a key role in the UK’s energy mix.”
We should welcome the stability that comes with majority Government. Now we need to hear how this Government will use this electoral certainty to support and promote the aims and ambitions of the renewables sector.