The Conservative election victory in the UK over the weekend has left the renewables industry on shaky ground, amid warnings the new majority government will scrap solar subsidies, shift the national energy focus to shale gas, and make good on threats to hobble the onshore wind industry.
“We are concerned about the future of onshore wind development, and that there is some suggestion the Conservatives are opposed to decarbonising the electricity supply,” said RenewableUK deputy chief executive Maf Smith in a statement.
And the concern seems warranted, because despite achieving all sorts of clean energy milestones for the UK on his watch – including a world number 3 ranking in utility-scale solar installations – returning Prime Minister David Cameron does not appear to be a fan, despite once promising to lead the greenest government ever.
As The Guardian put it on Sunday, “this is a government which has spent two years at least trying to slam the brakes on renewables while pushing subsidy towards hyperexpensive nuclear power, and at the North Sea through tax cuts (subsidies by another name).
“The Tories have been intensively lobbied by the dying fossil fuel industry that money would be better spent on unproven (in the UK) fracking for gas and on pouring billions more of public money chasing the broken nuclear dream.”
Cameron, himself, is on record for telling a government aide to “get rid of all the green crap” from the party’s environmental policy a few years back, while the Tory’s current party manifesto pledges “to halt the spread of onshore wind farms,” which, like some of Australia’s leading Conservative politicians, they say are an eyesore.
“There is nothing good for green energy about the Tories’ election,” said Tom Burke, a former director of Friends of the Earth and now chairman of the E3G sustainable development charity.
“They are certainly going to show a lot of hostility to renewables and Britain is going to get left behind.”
Bourke said there was also concern a majority Conservative government would abandon climate action “by stealth” – especially if the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) waas scrapped which, he said, was a distinct possibility.