UK Energy Secretary Huhne Blasts ‘Unholy Alliance’

UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne delivered a sharp defense of the nation’s renewable energy industries Wednesday while decrying criticism from the “climate skeptics and armchair engineers” he says are impeding the progress of the green economy.

Huhne made his comments during a keynote speech at RenewableUK’s annual conference in Manchester where he said renewable energy technologies would deliver “a third industrial revolution every bit as profound as the first two.” According to Huhne, just this year, there have been approximately 9,000 jobs created and £1.7 billion invested in the UK renewables sector.

He also criticized what he called “the curmudgeons and faultfinders who hold forth on the impossibility of renewables” describing them as “an unholy alliance of short-termists, armchair engineers, climate sceptics and vested interests who are selling the UK economy short.”

His speech came amid growing dissatisfaction with what some are calling “green taxes” and the role those taxes are playing on utility bills. The government recently announced plans to slash subsidies for biomass and hydro. There are also indications that there will be cuts to the feed-in-tariff, which some fear could deflate the residential solar market.

“If FiTs were cut to a degree that destroys the residential solar industry, that would threaten 25,000 jobs across the country and would mean that the only people to benefit from solar PV electricity would be the rich,” said Dan Green, CEO of HomeSun. “This is not right. The solar industry can take a cut of 30 percent; any more and access to solar PV to all is gone.”

The onshore and offshore wind industries have been somewhat spared by the cost-cutting measures.

Huhne’s comments received wide applause from those in renewable energy industries.

“The Secretary of State’s emphatic defense of the renewables industry will provide a welcome and timely boost for everyone working in this dynamic sector,” said Maria McCaffery, RenewableUK’s Chief Executive.

Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK, said, “Chris Huhne’s comments today are a dose of sanity in an energy debate which has been all over the place recently. As he says, claims that ‘green polices’ are the reason for high energy bills are simply wrong; bills have been driven up by rises in the gas price and anyway, subsidies for renewables are dwarfed by huge global subsidies for fossil fuels.”

Ben Warren, partner for environmental finance at Ernst & Young, added, “At a time when opportunities for economic growth in the UK appear sparse, this market has the potential to create enormous opportunities for UK businesses by reducing the economy’s exposure to ever increasing fossil fuel prices.”

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