Everyone knows that one of the world’s greatest lies is “I am from the Government and I am here to help you”. Despite knowing this, many of us in the green sector have been caught out by the lie. We believed David Cameron when he said his was going to be “the greenest Government ever” and we believed his ministers when they said they were going to support the SME sector because that was the area that was going to rebalance the economy away from the public sector and promote jobs and growth.
How many of us welcomed the Feed-in Tariff; how we cheered a Government that was not afraid to adopt a good idea from its predecessor. We saw the logic of Government wanting to support a fledgling industry in solar and wind energy until economies of scale and the increasing costs of power meant that the sector could stand alone and unsupported. And how many have lost money or jobs because the political mood has changed; EIS relief withdrawn and Feed-in Tariffs slashed; Government decisions delayed and changed. The consequence has been millions of pounds of investment have been lost along with thousands of jobs.
Most people recognised that small scale renewables was only a part of a complex web of power production and would only make a small contribution to the UK’s carbon footprint and this in turn would be minimised on a world scale compared to the pollution from emerging economies. But everything helps and anyway the UK is subject to international obligations which need to be met.
All of this was swept away in a tide of Nimby-ism and disinformation. It is true that the incentives were a cost on the consumer, but this is vanishingly small in comparison with the costs of building nuclear plants and the long term consequences are much more benign.
So the consequence is, if we cannot save society by building renewable assets, we can at least help society by reminding people that in the end Government will always stuff you.