Thursday, 17 December 2015

Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> nuclear vs solar >>> centralism vs localism

The plans for 'devolution' are all very 'business-friendly':
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> "to mandate bodies of unelected businessmen to define and effect policy without any scrutiny or accountability to electors or their representatives."

But which businesses is this deal friendly towards, exactly?

This is from the Heart of the SouthWest's Local Enterprise Partnership website today:

South West Nuclear Cluster – delivering the benefits of Hinkley Point C to the local business community and workforce

HotSW LEP is working hard to ensure that the catalyst of the first new nuclear build project in the UK for a generation at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, provides a lasting sustainable economic legacy for the HotSW area and beyond.
The construction at Hinkley is estimated to cost £16billion, with a significant proportion of that investment potentially being spent within the UK and the South West.
A partnership of stakeholders has been established under the banner: South West Nuclear Cluster – in order to secure the benefits of this investment to the local business & resident community. The partnership includes HotSW LEP, West of England LEP and Gloucester First LEP; business consortiums and local authorities.
The South West Nuclear Cluster is charged to develop initiatives to ensure that business and the workforce have the capability and skills that are required at the right time, and an agreed accord for the cluster partnership summarises its aims

South West Nuclear Cluster – delivering the benefits of Hinkley Point C to the local business community and workforce | Heart of South West Local Enterprise Partnership

And this is from a presentation from last year:

Heart of the South West LEP: Growth Deal 2015/16 - 31st March 2014

This is an initiative pushed by and subsidised from the centre and not from the localities 
- just as the government is moving to push another aspect of national energy policy which is much opposed on the ground:
MPs clear the way for fracking to start under National Parks - Telegraph

Meanwhile, an energy industry with truly local roots is being undermined by central government:
UK announces cut in solar subsidies - BBC News
Britain follows Paris deal with cuts to green subsidies | Reuters

This is especially damaging to the SouthWest:

Fracking and solar plans to be unveiled by Government
By WMNAGreenwood | Posted: December 17, 2015
The Government is expected to announce key decisions on solar power and fracking, amid warnings ministers are “unravelling” policies on clean energy.
But the solar industry has warned 27,000 jobs and £127 million in investment would be put in jeopardy by the move.

Fracking and solar plans to be unveiled by Government | Western Morning News

11 Dec 2105
With so many jobs now cut in Devon due to cuts in green energy projects we stand to suffer more than most from them.

UK ” moving backwards” with climate change | East Devon Watch

There is particularly pertinent comment at Cllr Claire Wright's blog on the way in which the 'devolution' debate is ignoring the plight of local innovative industries:

Devon County Council Tories vote down urgent debate on crippling renewable energy subsidy cuts

Thursday, 10 December 2015 1 Comment by Claire

Devon County Council’s Conservative group today block voted against allowing a debate on the massive renewable energy subsidy cuts, which are likely to cause thousands of job losses across the south west.

The LibDem , Labour and Non-aligned groups voted to hear the motion.

The government is set to slash the subsidy by a whopping 87 per cent overnight as early as January, which could cripple a currently successful, but fledgling industry.

Conservative Leader John Hart asked his group to vote against debating my motion today at the full council meeting, although it had been explained in writing that the motion was urgent because ministers are set to finalise their plans, on Wednesday 16 December.

My motion called on all Devon MPs to urgently make representations to ministers, on slowing down the planned and huge subsidy cuts.

The usual route is for a motion to be referred to cabinet before returning to the next full council meeting for debate. However, movers of motions can argue for it to be debated there and then – which I did this afternoon.

The motion will now go before cabinet and back to the February full council, where any debate is likely to be fruitless because the decision will almost certainly have already been made by ministers.

Extraordinarily, ministers have not held any debate in parliament on the matter - and will not before they make the final decision.

Merlin Hyman, chief executive of Regen South West, emailed Cllr Hart earlier this week to confirm that senior officials at the Department of Energy and Climate Change said that the government was intending to make the proposals final next Wednesday (16 December).

However, Cllr Hart said this afternoon that his investigations had revealed that there was still time to act so advised his group to vote against an urgent debate.

This was very disappointing - and a missed opportunity to send a clear message to the industry, to MPs and to central government, that Devon County Council opposes its reckless action – and defends businesses - and the damage to the county’s economy that the severe cuts will cause.

I really think that the government’s position on this is completely shameful. The subsidies are set to be cut by 87 per cent OVERNIGHT - which is likely to cause a crisis in the industry and thousands of job losses.

It appears to me that the Conservative government has deliberately set out to dismantle an industry that they are ideologically opposed to.

Disingenuously, ministers have implied that renewable energy gets a bigger subsidy than any other energy. The truth of the matter is that renewables receive less. Nuclear power gets a very large subsidy by way of preferential rates for electricity produced. Most of the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s budget is spent on nuclear power.

The chancellor recently announced the best tax breaks for fracking companies in the world.

The agony of all this is that the renewable sector actually support plans to reduce subsidies. All they are asking for is the pace of withdrawal to be slower so their industry doesn’t crash.

But the government seems only too keen for this to happen and most of our MPs seem completely complacent about it.

I really hope that John Hart is right and we do get to make representations to MPs in February. But I fear it will be too late by then.

The itemised webcast can be viewed here. It is item 11e - http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/home



No nuclear power station could ever be built without state aid. Hinkley C is being underwritten by the taxpayer to the tune of £17bn.

Importantly, renewable energy industry is The key business in the SW.

It is SO important to the south west economy that it can be compared with steel in the north of England.

Around 10,000 people in the south west are working in renewable sector.

Many suppliers to the sector have also benefited from this success.

But although it is a success story, it is a fledgling industry and still at a stage where it needs government support.

The industry has benefited, as ALL energy providers do in this country, from government subsidies – and as a result, the contribution to clean sustainable energy has been significant.

Around 25 per cent of our electricity is produced through renewable energy.

BUT in the late summer the government announced that it was dramatically slashing the subsidies to this vital industry, which is still in its infancy.

Within days of the announcement two major renewable energy companies in the UK went bust resulting in over 1000 job losses.

The cuts are equivalent to the withdrawal of 87 per cent of the subsidy overnight. It is a reduction of around £100m over the course of this parliament.

It could cause the sector to come to a grinding halt.

In the south west we could lose over 2,200 jobs in the solar industry alone.

For anyone who thinks that the renewable energy subsidies are too costly for the taxpayer, or that renewable energy results in expensive fuel bills, I have some stats:

• The International Monetary Fund calculates fossil fuel subsidies cost each person in the UK £400 a year.
• George Osborne, announcing tax breaks for shale gas in 2013, committed the government to making the tax regime “the most generous for shale in the world.”
• The subsidies for Hinkley Point C nuclear power station are expected to add approximately £14 to the average energy bill.
• The annual government grant to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is £2.09 billion. That means the average cost per household of dealing with nuclear waste is £79.
• 60 per cent of the department for energy and climate change’s budget goes towards nuclear power.
• The cost of RENEWABLE ENERGY subsidy adds around £45 a year onto the average fuel bill.

Ironically, contrary to the nuclear industry, which cannot survive without huge public subsidies in the form of very preferential rates for electricity, the renewable energy sector agrees that subsidies SHOULD reduce but more slowly, over the course of this parliament, to allow businesses to adjust and job losses to be kept to a minimum.

Disgracefully, there has been NO debate in parliament over this, just a briefing in Westminster Hall.

At 04:01 pm on 13th Dec Chris Wakefield wrote:

In DCC’s Cabinet meeting 9th December, the chief exec was punting the idea of ‘devolution’ with the lure of huge infrastructure gains for the southwest region if we can convince the government we can up our ‘productivity’. One way we can do this, he says, is seek to capitalise on Exeter’s lead in sustainable technology and turn it into a ‘world class’ centre for sustainable environment-friendly technology. This was heartily endorsed by Cllr. Hart from the chair. Later the same day I read this blog on the removal of sustainable energy subsidies, which will affect the southwest region particularly badly.

This is not the first time by any means that a metropolitan Tory government has completely failed to understand our rural existence in the far flung southwest. Renewable energy is a major opportunity for our region - one of very few to turn up - at least since wool tin and copper went tits up centuries ago - that might offer some hope of a perceptible regional increase in industrial productivity - our geography, topography and existing skills base all suggest have a great opportunity here. It’s the best place in the UK for renewables and there is a growing sustainable energy industry already making headway. But alas, the Long Term Economic Plan does not include industries that are ideologically unsound - and renewables - well that’s just hippy technology that will never work.

And it probably will never work, not because the technology can’t deliver, but because the politics won’t. The big money is in nuclear - and although good on carbon emissions, nuclear is hardy cheap or ‘green’ technology, even if you ignore, as do some high profile environmentalists, the murk that envelopes nuclear technology’s other arm - the security and weapons industries.

Two things to note here I think…

first - devolution is obviously no such thing. John Hart’s applause for the new powers he anticipates is misplaced. The department of community and local government will be checking the ideological soundness of any proposals from its distant rustics and throwing them out if it doesn’t suit the party line. Smaller government? - not really.

Second - the government’s destruction of a nascent regional industry in sustainable energy is ample demonstration of the above. DCC and indeed all nineteen councils engaged in the bid for devolved powers please note…the whip hand remains at Westminster, and the deal is a pig in a poke.

Devon County Council Tories vote down urgent debate on crippling renewable energy subsidy cuts - Claire Wright

Devon MPs appear complacent over renewable energy subsidy cuts to industry on “edge of a cliff”

Sunday, 13 December 2015 2 Comments by Claire

The majority of Devon MPs have been bafflingly silent on the catastrophe that is poised to hit the renewable energy sector, with a decision expected this week on proposed massive cuts to subsidies of around 87 per cent.

Just days after the ink has dried on the Paris climate change conference pledge the British government is set to legislate in favour of huge subsidy cuts, which could throw the renewable energy industry into crisis.

Richard Fuell, UK Sales Manager with Solar Edge Technologies, is angry and worried about the effect the dramatic cuts in subsidies will have on his business. He said: “The whole industry is on the edge of a cliff and this decision will have a significant negative impact. Not only will it affect thousands of people directly involved with solar but gives a clear message that the UK will NOT be leading the world to fight against climate change but has instead decided to kill off an environmentally positive industry. The solar industry in the UK is still in its infancy. If the current subsides were phased out gradually over the next three years (as has been the case for the past three years) the industry would be able to stand on its own feet and we as a country would have an opportunity to help the fight against climate change.”

The Paris agreement, signed by all 195 countries, including Britain, has promised to aim to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than two degrees. And David Cameron announced his commitment to the Paris pledge on Saturday, tweeting: “Today’s climate change deal means our grandchildren will see we did our duty in securing the future of our planet.”

But on Thursday this week (17 December) the Conservative government is set to announce cuts of up to a whopping 87 per cent, which could cause the industry to collapse and the loss of thousands of jobs in the south west alone.

The cuts are equivalent to over £100m over the course of this parliament.

Unbelievably, we have barely heard a whisper of protest from Devon MPs, aside from Ben Bradshaw, who has spoken out against the plans several times.

Business leaders and environmentalists have accused Mr Cameron of “outstanding hypocrisy,” over his government’s plans for green energy subsidy cuts, so close to the signing of such a historic agreement.

Disappointingly, last week, my urgent motion at Devon County Council full meeting calling on MPs to undertake a final lobbying exercise to ministers, was voted down even being debated, by Conservative councillors. It will now be referred to the January cabinet meeting, where it is likely to be too late for any action to be taken.

Within days of the initial government announcement in the summer, two major renewable energy companies in the UK went bust, resulting in over 1000 job losses.

The renewable energy sector is one of the biggest players in the south west economy but is still a fledgling industry. The industry is happy for the subsidies to be reduced, but is asking for cuts to be made more slowly, to avoid it crashing.

It appears to me that the Conservative government has deliberately set out to dismantle an industry that it is ideologically opposed to. And most Devon MPs have done little or nothing to defend it. Disingenuously, ministers have implied that renewable energy gets a bigger subsidy than any other energy. The truth of the matter is that renewables receive less.

Nuclear power gets a very large subsidy by way of preferential rates for electricity produced. Most of the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s budget is spent on nuclear power.

The chancellor has also recently announced the most generous tax breaks in the world for fracking companies.

If the cuts go ahead as planned, the south west could lose over 2,200 jobs in the solar industry alone.

Those of us who are astonished at the silence of most Devon MPs on an issue of such monumental importance to the future of our planet – and our economy - are likely to wonder whether its cause is a desire to tow the party line, climate change denial – or both.

1. At 11:46 am on 14th Dec Lorna Woodward wrote:

Sad news.

2. At 06:04 pm on 16th Dec Robert Crick wrote:

After COP-out 21, see the proud record of the UK government - with one of the highest levels of carbon emissions per person in the world. (2% of the carbon emissions from 1% of the population and growing fast):
> Cancelled the billion pound prize for carbon capture and storage -
which was the main justification for progressing with fracking for fossil fuels, now to be permitted in AONB
> Subsidises oil companies, airlines and nuclear energy
> Guaranteed windfall profits from future UK consumers for Chinese and French nationalised energy companies
> Imposed a carbon tax on renewable energy (cf. an alcohol tax on water or a sugar tax on vegetables)
> Destroyed renewable energy companies and climate jobs
> plant trees to prevent flooding,
> create climate jobs in insulation,
> devolve energy production to regions,
> pay families to keep their daughters in education up to the age of 18 to reduce the birth rate
> homes from local builders within communities (not big developments on green fields)
- as is happening in such developed counties as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Germany etc.

Devon MPs appear complacent over renewable energy subsidy cuts to industry on “edge of a cliff” - Claire Wright

See also:
Futures Forum: SidEnergy latest: the impact of energy policy changes

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