This week David Cameron remarked that this government was ‘the greenest government ever’ but with recent surveys showing that a mere 2% of the public agree with him where does the truth lie?
During the clean energy summit Cameron also praised renewable energy on the ‘vital part’ it has to play in the energy balance. However he grouped it alongside the questionable ‘cleaner’ coal, Carbon Capture and Storage, oil and gas (with a particular mention to shale gas which has no green credentials and is arguably more contributory to global warming than burning coal). He also mentioned nuclear, which people will argue that is clean energy but I have to question how something can be called clean when it produces radioactive waste that we cannot handle adequately.
Cameron came to power on a promise to make the UK the renewable technology capital of Europe, rejuvenating manufacturing with clean-tech companies, turning the tide for engineering. However after two years of virtual silence on the matter of his support, the industry has faltered and investment has often lacked by the uncertainty surrounding the UK commitment to clean energy.
The UK has a abundance of natural resources that could be harnessed in the production of renewable energy, with plentiful offshore wind, tidal, and wave potential that comes from being an island nation. The UK has had investment for some renewable projects but the sector has received no way near the support it needs to thrive. We have made good strides in offshore wind with the largest offshore wind farm in the world, the London Array, under construction off the Kent coast but progress overall has been slow with large scale wind projects, as identified in round 3 of the crown estate sea bed allocation, still at the very early stages and not looking at producing any energy before 2015 at the very earliest.
You could look at the government’s solar energy push, the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT), as a good indication that the government does have true green credentials. However most recognise solar as not the ideal energy solution in a country that receives minimal sunshine, resulting in fairly low energy returns, so maybe more of a token green gesture than a indication of green credentials. Not to mention most companies that pounce upon the FiT install low quality solar panels with poor energy conversion efficiencies.
Ok so maybe if we compare now to what came before, we can say that this government is greener, as, previous to the last Labour government, historically the green issue was seen as insignificant by politicians and many of the public. So the contenders for greenest government so far are the previous Labour government and this current Conservative government and you could arguably say that the current incumbent has done more in supporting green energy; but saying that many of the foundations for the significant projects that are underway today were laid by the previous government, along with commitments to reducing emissions.
The last government failed and this current government has so far failed to show support and reassurance to a fast growing sector that may be a hope for regenerating engineering, manufacturing industries and the economy as a whole. So yes, maybe this is the greenest government ever, but that’s not much of an achievement – yet.
Also posted @the renewable future blog.