One camp argues that because the wholesale cost of fossil fuels is only ever going to rise in the long term, we should channel all our resources into alternative streams of energy. Another argues that fossil fuels provide a far more economical solution for today’s needs and should be prioritised above renewables, with all subsidy for the latter taken off the table. A third group sits somewhere in the middle, focused on creating a market that responds to both financial and environmental concerns.
I would argue the case for this third group. The context provided by the UK’s slowly changing sustainable landscape has proven time and again that the central thread has got to be one of steady and consistent progress. Knee-jerk reactions either towards or against renewable power only serves to hamper development as investors shy away from committing to a nation that doesn’t appear to know how to commit itself.
This week, George Osborne announced his intentions to drop certain green levies, distancing the government from involvement in some areas of the sector. This may appear to be letting the cards fall where they may, and there have been several vocal opponents to the move; Nick Clegg has weighed in with a view that the short-term monetary benefit for the end user will soon be outweighed by the loss of investment in infrastructure and proper insulation for those living in fuel poverty.
This tug-of-war is a perfect demonstration of the core problem here: one party puts one policy in place, another takes it away before it is reintroduced under a slightly different name only to be removed once more. Fundamentally, this is a simple issue with a simple solution. Instead of fighting amongst themselves, policy makers need to take a look around and appreciate that every promise that they make only to renege on at a later stage is hugely damaging to the future fortunes of the UK, in terms of both finance and sustainability. If Osborne intends to revert to more of a free market under the right conditions, then the most important point is that the changes made are left alone; this is the only way through which industries so critically affected by the presence or absence of legislation can build strategy that can be relied upon for years rather than months.
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