Clegg: Gov't 'committed' to renewables

Aug. 8, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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LONDON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says renewable energy will remain a key part of the country's energy policy despite reports of government infighting.

Clegg, appearing Monday at an energy conference in London, declared the renewable energy sector "is vital to encouraging investment" in Britain and revealed $156 million in funding to help attract backing for energy efficiency projects.

"The U.K. is the sixth-largest market in low-carbon goods and environmental services and this coalition government is unreservedly committed to helping our low carbon sector thrive," Clegg said. "We seek nothing less than a clean, green, low carbon economy."

The remarks came two weeks after Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat Cabinet members announced an agreement under which subsidies to onshore wind power developments will be cut 10 percent rather than the 25 percent reportedly sought by Chancellor George Osborne.

The government has committed to lowering greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050.

A leaked letter from Osborne to Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey revealed the Tory finance minister is demanding Britain become a "natural gas hub" -- a move that would push aside the Liberal Democrats' goal of virtually "decarbonizing" the power sector by 2030.

Clegg, however, downplayed the disagreements Monday, the BBC reported.

"The coalition is sometimes presented in the press as if it is riddled with debate and division with regard to greening the economy," he said. "That isn't the case. Yes, there will be internal discussions and debates on the balance and sequencing of different policies -- that's the nature of any government -- and energy policies will evolve over time as costs come down.

"The entire government is working within the parameters of the carbon budget, which sets the pace for decarbonizing our economy, and there is no one in government who wants to depart from that."

Davey, too, pushed back against critics who contend his Conservative coalition partners are derailing efforts to develop and finance alternative energy sources.

"The U.K. government is taking the necessary steps to develop a secure, clean energy mix, and this is opening up massive, long-term investment opportunities," he said.

The measure revealed Monday would add $156 million to funds managed by Equitix and Sustainable Development Capital, which have been set up to precede next year's opening of Britain's Green Investment Bank, which will have headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The government at the same event revealed the Dagenham, Essex, company Closed Loop Recycling will double its capacity, spending $19 million to keep and create 100 jobs, while the Spanish engineering firm Grupotec will expand its British solar business in Surrey, the Financial Times reported.

Clegg's speech brought praise from Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK.

"It's heartening to hear a senior member of the government give such unequivocal support for the green economy, although Nick Clegg's suggestion that there's no division in the coalition over the issue is slightly difficult to believe."

But, Molho warned, the "big test" of the government's commitment will come this fall when it will need to deliver on commitments to decarbonize the energy sector by 2030.

"What we really need to see now is unity within the government and leadership from the top," he said.

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