Cameron: renewables are 'vital to our future'

A long entry - but I guess we will give the PM a bit of rope.....

Prime Minister David Cameron today said he "passionately believed" renewables would prove "vital" to the country's future, but challenged the sector to become "financially sustainable".

Addressing energy ministers from 23 leading economies at the Clean Energy Ministerial summit this morning, the Prime Minister said the UK was already playing "a leading role at the forefront of [the] green energy revolution" and welcomed commercial deals worth over £350m expected to be announced today.
               
In a seven-minute speech, Cameron outlined the need for "a more diverse, cleaner mix of energy sources" to provide energy security and cope with a predicted 40 per cent rise in energy demand over the next two decades.

He said nuclear, clean coal, natural gas, shale gas and carbon capture and storage (CCS) would all play a role in the future energy mix. But in what could be seen as a rebuke to members of his own party who have argued against green energy, Cameron also said: "I passionately believe the rapid growth of renewables is vital to our future."

"Renewable energy is not just good for our environment but we believe it's very good business too," he added.

Cameron went on to back the government's record on advancing renewable energy, citing the imminent launch of the Green Investment Bank, Green Deal, Renewable Heat Incentive and London's role as one of the world's leading clean investment hubs.

"I said we would have the greenest government ever, and today that is exactly what we have," he declared

But he said for the UK industry to become truly global, a range of measures including collaboration between government and business to drive down cost's developing a global carbon price and enhanced international trading, would be needed.

"Britain has gone from virtually no capacity for renewables, to seeing them provide almost 10 per cent of our total electricity needs last year," Cameron said.

"And we've added more capacity for renewables in the last two years than at any time in the last decade.''

"Our commitment and investment in renewable energy has helped to make renewable energy possible. Now we have a different challenge. We need to make it financially sustainable.''

"We need greener energy, but we need cheaper energy too," he continued, adding there was encouraging evidence renewable energy costs were falling fast, with the cost of solar energy halving in two years and costs also falling for onshore wind energy.

Cameron argued that it was right for subsidies to fall in line with the cost of renewables. The government angered the solar industry in particular with a raft of incentive changes, but in comments that will be welcomed by green businesses he promised more clarity and stability from government policies.

"When we have made a commitment to a project we will honour it in full," he said.
Cameron went on to highlight that between April 2011 and February 2012 UK renewable energy and its supply chain attracted investment of £4.7bn and created 15,000 jobs.

He also announced a call for evidence on how the UK can expand the industry further by increasing trade in renewable energy and clean energy technologies.

Cameron said selling renewable energy produced by large-scale offshore wind farms in the North Sea was "something Britain is determined to lead in".

Touting the North Sea as the site of a "second energy revolution" based on offshore wind and CCS, he again underlined the UK's commitment to international work to develop a European supergrid.

To that end, the Prime Minister also revealed a new industry partnership bringing together more than 20 key players to create a major new renewable energy power centre in the North Sea and to maximise the significant opportunities that come with it.

Companies including Scottish Power, Dong, Siemens, Alstom and David Brown Gear Systems have signed up to the Norstec vision, which takes its name from the Desertec initiative to channel solar energy from North Africa to Europe. Further announcements, including how the new partnership will operate, are expected in June.

However, while the industry is likely to welcome Cameron's warm words on renewables, industry figures pointed to the lack of concrete policy measures in his speech. David Nussbaum, chief executive at WWF-UK, dubbed the Prime Minister's speech a "damp squib."

"We heard yesterday from ministers in countries like Germany and Denmark who clearly get the scale of the challenge and the opportunity, but it's not clear this government does," he said.

"We agree that renewables must be 'financially sustainable', but businesses and investors need consistent messages from across government, and not the series of ill-judged attacks in recent months, including from the Prime Minister's own Treasury and some backbenchers."