Saturday, 21 September 2013

Back to the blues

There is sometimes a fine line when it comes to discerning the difference between the colours of green and blue - as British Prime Minister David Cameron has been finding out.

His bold claim on coming to power to be leading the "greenest government ever" seems to be turning into something of a wistful ruse at best.

The summer’s unresolved fracas over fracking for shale gas didn’t really help matters but the latest salver came from a more unlikely source - a Conservative party donor.

Alexander Temarko, a significant British energy investor, claims investors in renewable technologies are being scared off by "seriously mis-leading" messages from the Government.

The Russian businessman, who has made donations in excess of £50,000 to the Conservative party, believes the Government is now paying little more than "lip service" to renewable energy.

Temarko says that failing to provide the clear targets investors need before committing to long term green electricity generation projects is squandering the opportunity to create thousands of jobs and generate billions of pounds in revenues.

The charge is levelled equally at the Prime Minister, his Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and, to a lesser extent, at Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary.

In fairness, Davey campaigned to include a requirement in the Energy Bill - currently progressing through Parliament - that would have required the UK's electricity supply to become almost entirely ‘green' by 2030.

But Osborne replaced the target with less onerous wording that grants the Government the power from 2016 to require Britain's electricity supply to become almost entirely green only at some point in the future and should it choose to do so.

All this comes at a time when the country’s profit-hungry big six energy companies are about to announce another inflation-busting price hike to gas and electricity prices.

An exception to the rule is Ecotricity which announced mid-September that it was ending its ‘Big Six price match’ under which the small energy provider had matched each Big Six standard tariff in their home regions.

This delivered green energy for the price of brown and meant that, for most people in Britain, it costs no more to be with Ecotricity.

The company’s new pricing promise is that it will charge less than each of the Big Six standard tariffs - delivering green energy for less than the price of brown.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister and his Government’s ‘green' credentials have shifted chamaeleon-like back through the political colour spectrum to the traditional Conservative party blue.

And Temarko is right in one sense - the lack of a sound, long term energy policy is doing no one in the UK any favours.

This piece was originally scheduled for publication on 21 September 2013 but the Lighthouse Keeper was unable to access his blog due to Chinese internet restrictions whilst on assignment in Beijing and so it has been published retrospectively. The title is inspired by the album of the same name from the late Gary Moore (1952 – 2011), a musician from Belfast, Northern Ireland, best recognised as a blues rock guitarist and singer. In a career dating back to the 1960s, Moore played with artists including Phil Lynott and Brian Downey and was a member of the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy.

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