UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd says Britain’s Conservative government is determined to cut subsidies to companies developing clean energy alternatives to oil and gas, and argues that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract oil from shale is a less expensive option.
Addressing her party’s conference in Manchester on Oct. 5, Rudd dismissed subsidies as a path to cleaner energy for her country, saying there is “no magic money tree” to finance such an effort.
“I support cutting subsidies,” she said, “not because I am an anti-green Conservative, but because I am a proud green Conservative on the side of the consumer. We must be tough on subsidies. Only then can we deliver the change we need.”
Rudd also repeated the Tories’ support for fracking. She said evidence from the United States demonstrates that the technology is “cheaper, without subsidy, than the alternative” for generously providing Britons with energy.
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“The kind of transformation we need of our global energy system will only happen if low-carbon energy becomes cheaper than the alternative,” Rudd said. “The only long-term way to solve the real tension between affordability, security and low carbon is to discover low-cost, low-carbon technologies.”
Besides, the energy secretary said, at least some companies developing green technologies don’t need subsidies any more. She singled out the solar energy industry, saying, “With solar costs continuing to fall and new innovations in battery storage, renewable energy can stand on its own two feet.”
Rudd also cited cuts in government support for onshore wind farms, again not because Tories oppose green energy, but because wind-turbine technology will provide Britain with 30 percent of its electricity within 15 years.
“Subsidies have been cut and changes to planning rules mean that wind turbines should only get planning permissions if they have been clearly backed by local people,” she said. “Some have characterized these changes as motivated by ideological opposition to anything green. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
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Rudd acknowledged that her party strongly supports a free market, but also stressed that Conservatives’ energy policies also are consumer-friendly.
“I am clear that my department is a pro-business, pro-growth department that will champion the consumer,” she said, “getting a grip to protect families from endless worry about their energy bills. First, this means providing secure supplies of electricity, oil and gas that will enable us to work through our long-term economic plan and finish the job of securing our economic future.”
On Sept. 29, at the Labour conference in Brighton, the shadow energy secretary, Lisa Nandy, said her party opposes calls for the UK’s energy industry to be nationalized. Instead, she said, “We want to democratize it,” she said, by allowing each community, not the government in London, to own its own energy power station.
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In her address in Manchester, Rudd responded by saying competition among private companies is the best way to guarantee high-quality service and low prices.
“We want to ensure that we are doing everything we can to nurture competition so that it delivers cheaper bills and better customer service … to help ensure that we have an energy market that works for the consumer,” the secretary told the conference.
Rudd didn’t mention the troubles facing Britain’s offshore energy industry, which has suffered greatly because of low energy prices, aging drilling infrastructure in the North Sea and dwindling oil reserves in the region.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com