Balls says stop "dithering" over low-CO2 energy

11th July 2013

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The shadow chancellor has called on the government to set a 2030 decarbonisation target for the UK's electricity supply after think tank warns that policy uncertainty is threatening new low-carbon infrastructure

Reacting to a new report from Green Alliance, which estimates that £180 billion of investment in renewables and low-carbon transport links is at risk without greater clarity from government, the shadow chancellor urged the coalition to “end the dither and finally set a decarbonisation target for 2030”.

The analysis of Treasury’s spending from the Green Alliance reveals that funds earmarked for green infrastructure up to 2020 outstrip that for carbon-intensive projects by a factor of four. The report states that more than £128 billion has been set aside for offshore wind and better rail links, while just £38 billion will be spent on new airports, gas-fired power stations and roads.

However, there is concern that funding for many low-carbon projects could fail to materialise. The think tank’s director, Matthew Spencer, warned: “The big beasts of British politics have been largely silent about this opportunity, and investor confidence has dropped as the perception has grown that the UK is not fully committed to its current low-carbon direction.”

Writing in the New Statesman, ahead of the report’s launch, Balls said: “Nobody seriously questions that in the coming decades all countries will have to generate much more energy using renewable sources. The alternative is devastating climate change, ever rising prices and energy insecurity.

“By refusing to agree a decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill, by raising the prospect of a new ‘dash to gas’ instead of renewables, by shackling the green investment bank, and by failing to implement the scale and certainty of policy needed to effectively de-risk investment, the government has actively undermined business plans to create jobs and growth.”

Energy and climate change minister, Greg Barker, responded by arguing that the coalition government was “unleashing unprecedented investment in clean energy”.

“Investment certainly is key but now, as our ambitious electricity market reforms near the finish of their progress through parliament, we have that in spades,” he claimed.

The Green Alliance report came as Greenpeace members attempted to scale London’s tallest building – the shard – in protest over government policies supporting oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.

Meanwhile, Decc announced that planning consent had been granted for the world’s largest offshore wind farm, which will be built off the Norfolk coast. The Triton Knoll wind farm will be made up of 288 turbines and generate enough electricity to power 850,000 homes, says the energy department.

Last week, prime minister David Cameron attended the official launch of what is currently the world’s biggest operational wind farm, the London Array. The wind farm in the Thames Estuary should provide enough energy for half a million homes.

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