A KEY part of the UK’s future is to have a successful green-tech revolution, but other than setting targets (the UK is way behind with those) and implementing some incentives such as ROCs (renewables obligation certificates), there is a view that Britain is trailing behind and that, somehow, the market will provide.
It turned out that Miliband agreed that being laissez faire cannot be relied on to deliver. He defended measures set in place by Labour.
“If you look at the low-carbon transition plan that we produced in the summer … it’s not just a set of targets, it is a clear route, sector by sector, to achieve our commitments. Next week (week beginning December 7), we have the second reading of the Energy Bill. That has provision for up to £9.5billion of investment in carbon capture and storage. That’s the largest single commitment that any country is prepared to make regarding CCS.
“So we’re not just about setting targets. We’re about real commitment. I agree that a market-only energy policy won’t deliver, and that has been my emphasis from day one as secretary of state.
“If you look at what we’re doing on the Renewables Obligation … there’s no greater example of a market intervention than the RO. Consider the money that we have made available to nurture our low-carbon industries. That is a clear sign that we need to intervene.
“I don’t think a market-only energy policy is the way forward. I’ve said that we need government and the market working together strategically. We need government intervention; we need a plan, and that’s why we’ve set out the low-carbon transition plan, precisely to provide that plan for 2020, and we’re going to be following that up in the spring with a 2020-50 road map. That shows how seriously we take the long-term nature of this transition.”
Miliband was also robust in his defence of the UK’s research and development effort in low-carbon energy. He rejected the assertion that Britain is bottom of the pile when compared with other leading countries – even the US. And he claimed that this country leads in offshore wind, even though most of the technology (and equipment) is foreign-owned.
“Look at Clipper Windpower, which is now developing the largest offshore wind blade in the world in the north-east of England. Why is Clipper doing that? It’s because we’ve made resources available from the Budget to help them to develop this blade. The Vestas blade plant closure … it was bad what happened. But that has a lot to do with planning issues around onshore wind. But, also thanks to funding from DECC, they’re developing an R&D centre precisely to develop new blades.
“As for offshore wind, if we get the decisions right on planning, on Round Three, on grid access and all those issues, I think we have a real chance in relation to offshore wind because we’re the leader already and I’m sure we can go a lot further.”
Miliband endorsed the view arrived at in a recent report to government by former energy minister Malcolm Wicks that Britain lacks adequate low-carbon manufacturing capability.
“We need more low-carbon industry; absolutely we do, and that’s why Peter Mandelson rightly talks about an active industrial policy because we recognise that we need to do more to get industry to come here. And that’s why we’ve made money available in offshore wind.
“CCS is also a massive industrial opportunity for us. We need greater enthusiasm among the oil&gas industry to work with us.”