Support for renewable energy in the 2015 budget included a promise of £60m for a new Energy Research Accelerator, to be based in the Midlands, which will probably work in a similar way to the Carbon Trust accelerator programmes.
Also, £138 million investment earmarked for the UK Centre for Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities which will address the efficient use of energy. It is hoped that these investments will encourage innovation in both the energy capturing and energy usage end of the spectrum. But, that seems to be about all. Many commentators are calling the renewable energy provisions in the Budget woefully lacking.
John Alker, director of policy and communications for the UK Green Building Council commented; “While his backing of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project shows that this government’s commitment to the green agenda is not entirely dead in the water, this is an otherwise barren budget for energy efficiency – demand reduction remains the Cinderella of energy policy.”
The Renewable Energy Association, Chief Executive, Dr Nina Skorupska said: “… our members will feel strongly that there was a missed opportunity to spread this commitment more widely to renewable power generation and renewable heat – both of which would thrive under a more stable regulatory framework which is fairer to smaller suppliers.”
That coupled with numerous comments about how the oil and gas industry has benefited (again) from this Budget make the reception of it less than welcoming for the renewable energy industry. David Powell, Friends of the Earth spokesperson said; “With growing calls to divest from fossil fuels, massive tax breaks aimed at squeezing more gas and oil out of the ground show how dangerously out of touch the chancellor is on climate change.”
Not an unexpected response from Friends of the Earth but they are right in that the Budget did give significant tax breaks with rates on North Sea oil and gas production slashed in order to mitigate the “pressing danger” on the industry by the low price of oil.
On the positive side, the boost to innovation can only help in the long term and whilst the accelerator programme promised is a good thing for development, however, that funding needs to be spread further afield that the Midlands. There are many other smaller innovation and development centres run by or supported by local authorities with unique facilities or local characteristics, that are attractive to innovators as a location to set up their development programmes, for example strong coastal tidal flows or geothermal hot spots.
As far a renewable energy is concerned the Budget did not go far enough to really encourage development in the emerging technologies that we are sure will one day cause conventional wind and solar to take a back seat.