Former energy minister Ed Davey has attacked George Osborne over his green policy agenda, claiming the Chancellor is pursuing “bonkers economics” against renewable energy.
Speaking to the Guardian in his first interview since losing the Kingston and Surbiton seat in May’s General Election, Mr. Davey said the Chancellor’s approach to the sector was “frightening”, with the Government’s “we don’t want it” signals on renewable energy likely to send investors elsewhere and cost the UK tens of billions of pounds of private sector investment.
Discussing his time working as secretary of state for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the former minister claimed the Liberal Democrats “battled every day” with the Conservatives on green policy.
He said: “There were some Conservatives who were supportive like Greg Barker and Charles Hendry but they were a minority and the push was against the green agenda.
“I had to fight like a tiger to stop him [Osborne] slashing the budget on fuel poverty and on renewable energy. We succeeded although he still took a chunk out of the ECO [Energy Company Obligation] energy efficiency programme. It was much less than he originally wanted and that fight went on for two months. It was huge.”
First announced in December 2013, the Government’s cuts to ECO meant that an estimated 440,000 poorly insulated homes would lose out on energy saving measures by 2017. In turn, this would save around £30 on household gas and electricity bills, causing severe damage to the energy efficiency and retrofit markets at the same time. The Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) estimated in April 2014 that the cuts to ECO would leave the scheme worth £1.15bn less to the industry than it was before.
According to Mr. Davey, George Osborne showed himself to be “the opposite of an entrepreneur when it comes to green energy” during the Coalition years.
He added: “It’s frustrating because we [the UK] were doing so well and also alarming for the economy. It was an inconvenient truth for George Osborne that the green economy was doing extraordinarily well and the investment in energy infrastructure – primarily low-carbon energy infrastructure – that happened under the coalition government and is in the pipeline to continue was the infrastructure success story of the government. Not transport that he used to go on about, not telecoms, not water – it was energy.”
Mr. Davey went on to claim that the Chancellor’s choice to promote public investment from the taxpayer in roads or railways over private investment is “really bonkers”. He said: “Forget climate change, this is disastrous economics. This is not statesmanship. This is not a good chancellor; this is an ideological, ill-advised chancellor.”
Since Ed Davey lost his seat in May and the Conservative Government took power, energy efficiency policy has been severely limited following the closure of the Green Deal, which had been bolstered to help offset cuts to ECO; the scrapping of zero carbon homes standards for 2016; cuts to solar and wind subsidies; and the unchallenged rise in the cost of energy-saving products following an EU ruling.