Tom Greatrex: Green investors need evidence-based approach

DAVID CAMERON’S pledge to lead the “greenest government ever” is on a shoogly nail.

The cross-party Energy and Climate Change Select Committee’s scathing report on the draft Energy Bill describes the proposals for attracting low-carbon investment as “unworkable”.

While the report doesn’t quite call for the government to scrap the bill and start over, it recommends so many changes that the final bill will be unrecognisable.

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Investor confidence is already at a low ebb after the shambles over solar tariffs, a shaky Green Deal and mixed messages on renewables from coalition ministers.

As the committee rightly points out, this is a bill designed to reform the electricity market that does nothing to do just that.

Labour has proposed a fundamental reform of the electricity market, which would break the dominance of the “big six” energy companies and pave the way for smaller generators to enter the market, leading to greater competition and fairer prices. Yet on this important issue, the government has been silent.

The delay in the decision on Renewables Obligation banding, which supports investment in renewable technology, could also have a devastating impact on the industry, particularly in Scotland. What investors need is an evidence-based approach that gives them certainty.

More than a third of the UK’s renewable energy is generated in Scotland, so it is our renewable sector that has the most to lose if the support regime, paid across the whole of Britain, is downgraded.

Alex Salmond’s latest letter to the UK government neglects to say that without that support from across Britain, his desired separate Scotland would have less investment in renewables, higher bills for consumers in Scotland or spending diverted from elsewhere.

Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, is in recession. Now more than ever we need to capitalise on the jobs and growth potential of a low-carbon economy. Both governments need to get a grip, otherwise we will look back in years with regret at the missed opportunities.

• Tom Greatrex is the Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West and the shadow energy minister.