Britain is on the brink of a solar revolution. Don’t put the brakes on now
Most people are in agreement that climate change is a major moral and spiritual challenge. Yet getting meaningful action to tackle it can prove challenging. St Paul would have recognised the spiritual issue. In his letter to the first Christian community in Rome, he wrote: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”
The aim of the UN summit in Paris next month is to limit projected global warming to 2° C. The offers on the table are projected to result in warming of 2.7 – 3° C. That seemingly small difference could have major consequences. There can be no advance proof of a projection, but the vast majority of scientists think we might be at a tipping point. We need take care of our common home because there is no planet B.
The UK has been at forefront of climate change policy, at home and internationally, since Margaret Thatcher became the first major world leader to take the problem seriously in the late 1980s. Last month a 50 per cent increase in climate finance for the world’s poorest countries was announced from within the existing development budget, aimed at resilience and adaptation programmes such as flood-resilient crops and infrastructure that reduces the impact of natural disasters.
This leadership makes the uncertainty about the Government’s domestic commitment to renewable energy puzzling. Proposed changes to the regulatory framework for onshore wind threaten the recent growth in the cheapest of renewable sources. The removal of 87 per cent of the subsidy for solar panels through Feed-in-Tariffs (FiTs) undermines a proven method of getting private finance to do what is in the public interest.
The renewable energy sector accepts there should be a reduction in the subsidy, but such a reduction must be tapered. A KPMG report estimated that the most common solar technologies will reach “grid parity” around 2020, delivering subsidy-free renewable energy during this Parliament. By jumping the gun on ending FiTs, the government puts that transition at risk. It is the scale and pace of change that is causing problems. Why undermine the substantial investment we have already made in renewable technology? Already thousands of jobs have been lost, and we risk losing jobs in the future to countries like Germany, Denmark and China which are investing massively in new renewable energy technology.
Photo: Floating Solar UK Ltd
The Church of England is committed to shrinking its carbon footprint by 80 per cent by 2050. In the last 5 years over 400 church buildings have, with the security provided by FiTs, installed solar PV panels. Churches have taken part in community-wide renewable energy projects, strongly driven by FiTs, which have provided a stable income stream used to help tackle fuel poverty and support causes locally. Churches are often able to demonstrate to communities an example of good housekeeping and a commitment to renewable energy.
The confidence of those planning renewables projects has been severely damaged by the FiT proposals. Community Energy England recently found that 90 per cent of community energy groups said their projects, representing £127m of capital investment, are under threat. 91 per cent say their future ambitions have been jeopardised, meaning a further £242m of investment in renewables may be lost.
If climate change is a moral priority, we must not be content with meeting our mid-range targets for renewable energy. We should be ambitious to exceed them. Our present contentment is destabilising a burgeoning industry. The shift to a low carbon economy is urgent for environmental and moral reasons. As a country. we also risk being left behind in developing what all agree will be the energy technologies of the future.
The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam is Bishop of Salisbury and the Church of England’s lead on the environment
Source :- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/