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Greg Barker’s promises


Speaking at the ninth annual British Renewable Energy Awards at the Savoy, Greg Barker, Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), told the audience that he wanted to leave everyone with ‘two very clear messages.’

The first is that the coalition remains ‘absolutely committed’ to an ‘ambitious rollout’ of renewables (in the most cost-effective way the government can manage), and the second is that tomorrow’s energy market must – and will – look very different.

‘Out goes an industry dominated by a few giant utilities; a monopoly of centralised energy models. In comes a new, diverse market, rich in innovation, driven by innovation, with an entrepreneurial, dynamic set of market participants’, he said.

Breaking down the barriers

Barker recognised that government policy must support the necessary shift as new actors, investors and technology appear. He said any barriers to entry must be broken down to open up the market to new players, ‘large and small’, rather than ‘stifling’ the industry with ‘suffocating legislation.’

‘No one in this room should doubt the coalition’s commitment to cost effective, value-for-money renewable energy, and at real scale’, he told the audience at the Savoy. ‘Ernst & Young in their latest global report rate the UK as one of the best places in the world to invest in renewables. Indeed, they rank the UK as the best place on the planet to invest in offshore wind and marine energy. Last year, against a backdrop of falling investment across the EU, the UK saw record highs, growing investment in renewables by 20%, outperforming the rest of Europe, including Germany, by a country mile.’

Barker highlighted last year’s Energy Act, which has put in place the framework for Electricity Market Reform. This reform, he claims, will deliver up to £100 billion of investment by 2020 and ‘ensure a historic shift to investment in renewables.’

DECC recently signed the first Final Investment Decision contracts, which Barker claims will bring forward £12 billion of investment, support 8,500 jobs and generate enough electricity for over three million homes.

Barker also acknowledged the increased uptake in solar PV, thanks to costs falling by over 60% over the last three years. ‘From a very small start in 2010, over a million people now go to sleep at night with a solar panel on their roof, which bursts into action as soon as the sun rises’, he said.

Over half a million solar installations are now in place, with close to 4GW of installed capacity. Still, Barker believes we have ‘only just scratched the surface of the potential for a host of distributed energy technologies.’

New partnerships

Barker underlined his desire for government and industry to work together in partnership, right across the renewables landscape, to ensure that the renewables sector continues to thrive. He described his vision for a different model for the energy sector, in which the Big Six would be replaced by the ‘Big 60,000’. Individuals and organisations would generate some or all of their electricity, standing ‘on the threshold of a power to the people revolution’.

Almost 550,000 homeowners and businesses have registered for the Feed-in Tariff, up 26% on last year, but countries such as Denmark, where distributed energy provides a third of the heating and electricity – or the Netherlands, where it provides 40% – are still countries we can learn from.

Barker has guaranteed ‘unprecedented financial support for renewables through to 2020’ in a bid to dispel any uncertainty still lingering around the renewables market. He has also promised to focus energy on the areas that need support to grow, while also leaving the market free to drive innovation where the government isn’t needed.

To close his speech, Barker stated ‘It’s not more 1970s style regulation or the creation of a super-bureaucratic regulator that we need to drive the renewables industry forward. Instead, we must slash unnecessary red tape, supercharge innovation and drive down the barriers to entry. I want this industry to be as sexy as the innovators of Silicon Valley.’

The Rt Hon Gregory Barker MP is a Minister of State at the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and the Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle. This speech was delivered on 12 June 2014, at the ninth annual British Renewable Energy Awards Gala Dinner at the Savoy on London’s Strand. In 2013, the Savoy won five awards for its commitment to reducing its environmental impact.

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