Huhne slams green energy 'naysayers'

Oct. 28, 2011 at 6:40 AM
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MANCHESTER, England, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- British Energy Minister Chris Huhne lashed out at critics of government subsidies for alternative energy this week, calling them "naysayers" and "curmudgeons."

"I want to take aim at the faultfinders and curmudgeons who hold forth on the impossibility of renewables -- the unholy alliance of climate skeptics and armchair engineers who are selling Britain's ingenuity short," Huhne said at a renewable energy conference Wednesday in Manchester, England.

The Liberal Democrat Cabinet member unleashed a harsh volley of criticism on those who contend the government can't afford to back investments in wind, solar and wave power during a time of financial hardship and rising energy costs.

"We will not heed the naysayers or the green economy deniers," he told attendees at the Renewables UK conference. "With over ($320 billion) worth of energy infrastructure needed by the end of the decade, this is our golden chance to deliver a greener future."

Analysts said the remarks seemed pointed at Chancellor George Osborne, a member of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, who this month complained that green initiatives were "piling costs on the energy bills of households and companies" and declared "saving the planet" shouldn't come at the cost of "putting our country out of business."

Huhne disputed that contention, saying that rather than costing jobs, investments in green energy technology have been shown to create jobs and would indeed develop into "a third industrial revolution."

He lauded $2.7 billion in investments this year with the creation of 9,000 jobs.

"At a time when closures and cuts dominate the news cycle, next-generation industries are providing jobs and sinking capital into Britain," he said.

Huhne's blunt remarks stirred anger among Conservative Party backers who share Osborne's beliefs that government funding of wind power projects in the short term amounts to wasteful spending on technologies whose potential remains unproven.

"Chris Huhne's words are unhelpful and deeply worrying," Simon Less, head of energy at the right-leaning Policy Exchange think tank, said in a statement. "Conflating those who want to see cost-effective carbon emissions reduction with climate science deniers, is insulting. To be greener, we must be cheaper."

The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday senior Conservatives were "understood" to have been antagonized by Huhne's remarks but Matthew Brown, head of energy for the British business group CBI, was more charitable.

Huhne, he told the newspaper, was "right to highlight the economic opportunity for the U.K.," but added businesses need "certainty in both policy and language" if they are going to invest is British wind farms and other renewables.

The "green war" within the government over whether to continue funding wind and solar power or concentrate on promoting nuclear energy has already been blamed for creating investor nervousness.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing this month said the split between government's Conservatives and Liberal Democrats was at the heart of the reported demise of a major carbon capture project at Longannet, Scotland.

Ewing blamed the situation on "the uncertainty around the U.K. government's proposed reforms to the electricity market," which he contended has produced "doubt in the minds of investors of billions of pounds in new energy technologies."

The proposed reforms envision providing a fixed, above-market price for electricity generated from both nuclear power and wind farms.

They "are seen by many as a means of supporting new nuclear power stations south of the border -- the technology of the last century," the Scottish minister said.

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