Over the next decade, Britain is expected to spend some £200bn on overhauling its entire energy infrastructure. Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, tries to justify this colossal price tag by pointing to the future opportunities presented by “green growth”. He reckons the UK can reap a huge dividend by becoming a leader in renewable energy technologies, allowing us to penetrate new export markets in emerging economies.
But an energy conference organised by the Financial Times in London threw several buckets of cold water over Huhne’s optimistic theory.
It was not a bluff. When Centrica warned a month ago that it might choose to leave one of Britain’s biggest gas fields off-line because of the higher taxes levied on UK energy companies, some thought this was an empty threat.
However, South Morecambe gas field has become available after a period of routine maintenance – and Centrica chose to leave it dormant on Wednesday morning.
As Italy becomes the latest European government to consider changing its solar subsidies, ministers should pay attention to today’s report into green investment from the Pew Environment Group.
The report looked like good news for European governments. Private investment into renewables in the European region totalled $94.4bn, about $20bn more than in 2009, and more than any other world region.
Germany and Italy both surged, with more than 100 per cent growth in investment in small-scale solar installations.