Investment in UK clean energy suffers ‘dramatic and worrying collapse’

There has been a “dramatic and worrying collapse” in investment in clean energy in the UK in the past three years, MPs have warned.

The proportion of Britain’s electricity generated from low-carbon sources — including nuclear — has doubled between 2009 and last year, when it hit a record 50 per cent.

Yet this belies a drop in the annual investment in clean energy, which fell 10 per cent year-on-year in 2016 and another 50 per cent in 2017 — when it was at its lowest level since 2008, according to the Commons environmental audit committee.

In a report published on Wednesday, the MPs on the committee blamed the trend on a succession of Conservative-led policy decisions, including cuts to green energy subsidies.

Since 2015, ministers have privatised the Green Investment Bank, prematurely closed the renewables obligation to onshore wind, removed the climate change levy exemption for renewables and reduced feed-in tariffs for small-scale renewable generation.

The government has also cancelled the zero carbon homes policy that was due to begin in 2016 and scrapped a £1bn competition to set up a new “carbon capture and storage” plant to remove carbon dioxide from gas plants.

The MPs called on ministers to publish a plan to secure the investment needed for the UK to meet its “carbon budgets” — the milestones towards the goal of reducing carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2050.

Mary Creagh, the Labour MP who chairs the environmental audit committee, said billions of pounds of further investment were needed to decarbonise the entire energy system.

“A dramatic fall in investment is threatening the government’s ability to meet legally binding climate change targets,” she said, adding that the government “must urgently plug this policy gap and publish its plan to secure the investment required”.

Ministers produced a “clean growth strategy” last October, but Ms Creagh described the document as “long on aspiration but short on detail”. She said the strategy did not do enough to meet legally binding climate change targets even if all its policies were delivered in full.

The committee also called on the government to negotiate to maintain its relationship with the European Investment Bank after Brexit, allowing continued access to funding for riskier early-stage green infrastructure projects.

But the European Commission has said that the UK will lose access to the EIB after Brexit, and the Treasury has begun drawing up alternative plans.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The UK is a world-leader in cutting emissions, with 50 per cent of our electricity coming from low-carbon sources and recently going 72 hours without burning coal.

“We’re committed to meeting our climate change targets and will have invested £2.5bn on low carbon innovations by 2021. We will consider this report carefully and respond in full in due course.”


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