Ed Davey promises steady hand and aggressive growth for green sector

"We shouldn't spend our time beating ourselves up about whether we are ever going to have a green economy – we should just go and get one," Ed Davey

In his first major speech since being appointed as energy and climate change secretary last month, Davey told a conference hosted by the Green Alliance think tank that the tough economic environment would not derail the government's plans to build a vibrant low-carbon economy.

Ed Davey has stressed there will be no major shifts in the government's green policy plans, reiterating that the coalition is fully committed to meeting its renewable energy targets and driving rapid growth across the low-carbon economy.

"Central to our vision of responsible capitalism is a new approach, where we move to a sustainable green economy," he said. "It is an idea that's time has come... Although the global economy has been slow, the low-carbon sector is healthy – growth is strong."

Citing government figures that show the global green goods and services market will grow by four per cent a year through to 2015 to be worth £44 trillion by 2015, he said the UK's green economy was expected to grow at an average of five per cent a year through to 2015-16.

"The potential for UK growth is absolutely massive... It is a key component for this government's growth policy and green growth policy," he said. "We need to make this transition as quickly as possible, and with as much determination as possible."

Davey insisted this commitment to green growth was shared across the government and had been fully endorsed by the prime minister, deputy prime minister and chancellor.

"They understand the growth potential in renewables and energy infrastructure; they know the role this can play in the growth agenda," he said. "The prospect of green jobs and contracts for our businesses is welcomed right across the government."

He also dismissed any possibility of a U-turn on renewable energy policy following a series of critical reports from right-wing think tanks and calls from Conservative backbench MPs for a deeper cut to onshore wind energy subsidies.

"We are totally commitment to renewables, including wind and solar, and totally committed to our renewables targets," he said. "We have to get the best bang for our buck, but as we tackle those issues that does not impact our targets or our commitment to renewables."

Independent polls had shown that contrary to many media reports a clear majority of people support wind farms, solar technologies, and the subsidies that are necessary to encourage their deployment.

In addition, he insisted he would continue Huhne's work in Europe, where the UK has been pushing for the European Union to adopt a more ambitious 30 per cent emissions reduction target for 2020.
Davey said he would again make the case for a more demanding emissions target at a meeting of EU ministers next week, while also stepping up calls for an acceleration of plans to create an EU-wide energy grid.

"Energy efficiency is unambiguously good for growth," he said. "It reduces bills, gives people more money in their pocket and makes businesses more competitive."

The speech came as cabinet office minister Oliver Letwin became the latest senior government figure to reiterate support for the government's clean energy policies.

Speaking at a debate hosted by the Telegraph newspaper, which has recently run a series of letters and stories detailing opposition to wind farms and renewable energy subsidies, Letwin said politicians would be "barmy" to scale back green energy schemes that were driving billions of pounds in private sector investment.

"[Green policy] has absolutely not fallen down the government's priority list," he said. "If it had, at a time when we are facing the largest fiscal squeeze in our history, we would not be spending a billion quid on CCS [carbon capture and storage] or wind farms, particularly offshore wind farms. That is an industrial policy in the making, not just an energy policy."

He insisted the UK had the potential to become a global leader in clean technologies such as offshore wind, marine energy and CCS.