by Ian Shires on 10 February, 2012
Some things in politics are symbolic. For dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists like the Liberal Democrats, solar power is one of these things – indisputably clean, green and cutting edge technology. The sort of thing Liberal Democrats in a government that aims to be the greenest ever should be unequivocally behind.
Our commitment to the environment was why I joined the party in the first place.
So I understand why many of you were confused and disappointed when the Government appeared to scale back the Feed in Tariffs that allow people to install solar panels in their homes and businesses, not least when our decision was challenged in the courts.
Make no mistake, I want solar power to be as widely available as possible.
The fact is the Feed in Tariffs scheme, as we inherited it, helped too few people. With the cost of solar panel installation dropping dramatically in recent years, having an unnecessarily high tariff means fewer people can take advantage of it.
By lowering the tariff we can extend it to more people – making clean, green, renewable energy available to the many not the few.
That’s why, in my first decision as Energy and Climate Change Secretary, I am announcing a consultation to look at exactly how we reform the tariff to make sure as many people as possible take advantage of it.
I want more solar panels installed and more carbon emissions saved than under the old scheme. I want the returns you get from solar power to be predictable, sustainable and attractive. I want to be able to give guarantees to those of you who install solar panels for your communities to use. And I want to give a real boost to other forms of renewable energy like micro-combined heat and power, which allows people produce clean, green electricity in their homes.
I am proud of the big, ambitious green measures my predecessor Chris Huhne and the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government have undertaken:
I don’t believe that fighting climate change and rebuilding our economy are mutually exclusive. I believe green jobs are the key to our recovery.
And I don’t believe going green means hitting people in the pocket. Energy efficiency, our reforms of the energy market and giving consumers more information will help bring down bills.
I am determined that this will be the greenest government ever. I’m up for that challenge and I’m sure all Liberal Democrats feel the same.