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Some questions for prospective parliamentary candidates

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 April 2010 at 9:22 am

I know it's unlikely, but if you're short of questions to ask the people seeking your vote on 6 May, here are a few ideas from the combined forces of of the renewable energy industry's trade associations. They published Zero Carbon Switch: Joint Manifesto for Renewables last week, to coincide with the announcement of a General Election. Its 12 proposals are as follows:

Provision of strong leadership and delivery, combined with a long-term stable investment framework

Strong leadership is essential in the current economic circumstances. There must be cross-party consensus, where possible, to ensure there is a longterm stable investment framework, including the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Reform of the regulatory regime to ensure delivery of low-carbon measures and to enable investment for a significant expansion of renewable energy by 2020

The current regulatory regime was not designed to facilitate the massive investment that is required to make the Green Switch and modernise Britain’s energy infrastructure. The regulator should actively encourage the development and connection of renewable generation, including heat technologies. We believe that the next Government should commit to working with the renewables industry and the wider energy sector to develop a longterm and coherent market framework to deliver the diversity required for a secure and low-carbon future.

Laying out of a clear pathway for the expansion of renewable energy generation up to 2050

The 2020 renewable energy targets have created great momentum and provided a clear signal to the market of the Government’s commitment. However, it is less clear what the vision for the UK’s energy mix is after 2020, and the various actors will need guidance in developing their own investment strategies. We believe that the next Government should set out realistic renewable energy targets to sit beside the CO2 reduction targets up to 2050.

Commitment to the roll-out of a smart grid network by 2030

The Government has already committed to a roll-out of smart meters by 2020 – however, in order to truly empower consumers, take advantage of this technology and properly integrate many of the larger renewables, this needs to be accompanied by a move to a smart grid network. We believe that the next Government should commit to delivering a smart distribution network by 2030.

Ensuring that the Local Development Frameworks conform with national planning policy, including the 2020 targets

The reforms of the Planning Act 2008 have been welcomed by the industry, however, the cumbersome nature of the planning regime remains a major obstacle to the expansion of renewable energy. Many good local schemes remain stuck in planning even though the need for them is clearly laid out in national policy. While local communities must retain the right to make local planning decisions they should have to conform to the democratically drafted national planning policies – including those that incorporate the 2020 renewable energy targets. The next Government should ensure that LDFs conform to National Policy Statements.

Development of a strategic plan for the delivery of key energy infrastructure

The proposals laid out by the Government/Industry/Regulator taskforce, the Electricity Networks Strategy Group (ENSG), for a broad-brush plan for grid upgrades is very welcome – however, there is no single body tasked with ensuring its delivery. For heat there is still a lack of capability at a local level to drive the development of heat networks and no clear pathway to unlocking the finance needed for this vital sustainable energy infrastructure. We believe that the next Government must urgently develop a strategic plan for the provision and funding of the new energy infrastructure the UK requires, including the widespread development of local heat distribution networks, appropriate support for the gas grid and its infrastructure, and restructuring of the electrical grid to support widespread use of renewables.

Introduction of a streamlined and properly funded accreditation scheme for microgeneration and small systems technologies

Many small and microgeneration manufacturers struggle to bring their new product models to market as a result of the complex and potentially expensive accreditation and testing regime. We believe that the next Government should properly fund the testing centres so that small-scale suppliers are not faced with prohibitive costs when trying to bring their goods to market. Likewise, Government should look to support new Installer Company entrants to the MCS scheme with appropriate training and support.

Establishment of a national business rate relief scheme for renewable energy schemes

The proposed revaluation of business rates could have a very significant impact on the viability of certain forms of renewable energy, especially hydro and onshore wind, with increases of up to ten times in some cases. We believe that the next Government should follow the example of the Scottish Executive and introduce a national business rate relief scheme for renewables.

Improvement of access to funding for employers to provide vocational training places

There is a desperate need for a new generation of skilled technicians and engineers for large renewables and for trained installers for small and micro products. Although there are significant amounts of funding available for training places, accessing these from the array of different training bodies can often be difficult, confusing and frustrating for employers. We believe that the next Government should rationalise the funding streams to create a coherent funding pathway for vocational training places.

Ensuring that any publicly backed Green Investment Bank effectively facilitates an improved flow of public and private capital

The credit crunch has hit many renewable schemes hard – even those that remain a good investment with little risk of default have seen private capital run dry over the last year. We welcome the creation of a ‘Green Investment Bank’, however, care must be taken to ensure the new institution does not compete with private lenders but instead works in partnership. We believe that its roles should be to facilitate improved flow of private capital and provide vital advice to Government of the impact of policy changes on the availability of finance.

Introduction of Government-backed low interest loans for initial capital costs of heat and microgeneration technologies

The new Feed-in Tariff and the planned Renewable Heat Incentive should make a real difference to the uptake of on-site renewables and microgeneration by households and businesses. However, these products still represent a significant financial outlay, especially at a time of economic difficulty. The successful Feed-in Tariff in Germany was accompanied by a system of low-cost loans to consumers for installation. We believe that the
next Government should introduce low-cost loans to cover the capital costs of installing micro and small systems.

Creation of a coordinated mechanism to deliver energy efficiency

Energy efficiency will play a key role in the energy future of the UK – it helps to tackle both carbon emissions and fuel poverty and, combined with smarter networks, will enable better use of our existing resources as well as the energy resources of the future. We believe that the next Government should put in place a framework that allows every householder to easily access high-quality advice and finance for investments to reduce their energy consumption.

Signatories to the manifesto include: British Hydropower Association, Combined Heat and Power Association, GSHP Association, Micropower Council, Renewable Energy Association, Solar Trade Association, RenewableUK, Scottish Renewables and UKBCSE.

Photo by Jonathan Gill


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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1 comments - read them below or add one

Better Generation

Better GenerationComment left on: 12 April 2010 at 5:28 pm

We blogged on this last week, here.

The fear is that all the major parties will agree that prima facie, action is required in the renewable energy field but its not the vote winner it should be so they won't push each other on specifics. Particularly for micro-renewable technologies. What do you think?

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