David Cameron may regret saying he wanted the coalition to be the “greenest government ever”. Not because he didn’t mean it, but because as ministers strive to keep to the tough spending allowances granted by the Treasury, it is an aim that seems to be slipping further and further away.
The last week has seen a slew of announcements that appear to signal a retreat by the government from its green ideals. Firstly, we had the cut to solar subsidies in the form of the feed-in tariff.
Officials at the energy department claim the changes to the feed-in tariff are primarily aimed at redistributing the money away from large-scale solar farms and towards households and small businesses, rather than cutting it. But if this was the case, the amount of money that had been cut from large producers would surely have been recycled in the form of higher subsidies for smaller ones.
As is becoming tradition with diplomatic affairs around the world, the Nordic-Baltic summit hosted by David Cameron over the past few days has brought with it announcements of new commercial deals.
On this occasion, it is the energy expertise of the northern European countries that the UK is keen to tap. Cameron announced on Thursday that both Vatenfall and Vestas will be creating new jobs in Britain.
Vantenfall will set up a new HQ in London, employing 50 people. The Swedish energy producer already runs Thanet, the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, located off the Kent coast, and said on Wednesday it wants to develop another massive farm in the North Sea. A London HQ seems a natural step given this level of investment, and could quickly grow from 50 people.
The UK government’s cap on non-EU migrants has won fewer supporters than ministers hoped. Initially thought to be an obvious crowd-pleaser, it has been met with a torrent of criticism from businesses of all sizes and in all sectors, not to mention cabinet ministers themselves.
One of the things that the oil and gas was most concerned about was the inclusion of intra-company transfers (ICTs) in the cap. This would effectively limit the ability of companies to import their own talent from elsewhere into the UK.
It has been a busy week for wind energy.
First came the good news – a massive investment in offshore wind in the UK. Although the UK leads the world in offshore wind generation, that is mainly because so little of it has been built anywhere. But a vote of confidence in the UK’s prospects came from three wind turbine manufacturers who announced on Monday they would set up shop on the UK’s north-east and eastern coasts.
General Electric, Siemens and Gamesa are arriving, with more than £300m in investment promised and the creation of an estimated 3,000 jobs. (That is direct jobs – more will follow along the supply chain.)
The British government has finally announced what we have known for a while: that it will keep in place the £60m of investment pledged by the last government to improve infrastructure for offshore wind.
David Cameron told the CBI annual conference:
To help secure private sector investment in this technology, we’re providing up to £60 million to meet the needs of offshore wind infrastructure at our ports. And to help move things forward, the Crown Estate will also work with interested ports and manufacturers to realise the potential of their sites.
It’s a triple win. It will help secure our energy supplies, protect our planet and the Carbon Trust says it could create 70,000 jobs.