Renewable energy is set to become a key political battleground in the run-up to next year’s UK general election, but many questions remain unanswered by the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
The Autumn Statement has, in effect, created an information vacuum, according to Tim Waterfield of Savills Energy. Although the project pipeline accompanying the National Infrastructure Plan 2014 provided some insight into a number of energy developments, the government didn’t take up the opportunity offered by the Autumn Statement to provide further clarity on proposed routes to achieving a a secure, diverse and reliable energy supply for the UK.
“Indeed, there was a lot of rhetoric in the Autumn Statement outlining the emphasis on clean, safe and secure energy supplies” Mr Waterfield said. “However, beyond a focus on developing UK capability in shale gas, there is very little to note since last year’s Autumn Statement, in which scant detail was offered on the coalition’s carbon and energy security plans. Key questions remain unanswered on the future of our energy mix.”
Mr Waterfield added that this is a particularly pertinent issue in the case of ground-mounted solar and onshore wind energy, which the government continues to downplay.
The five offshore projects awarded early Contracts for Difference provide a positive platform for continued growth while previous affirmations of support for rooftop solar have been widely welcomed. Confidence in renewables is still high, but some policy softening is essential from the next government to fully position the field as a prime target for investment. Ring-fenced investment is essential for guaranteeing the UK’s renewables targets are met through diversification of supply, thus keeping the appeal of new technologies buoyant for potential investors. Likewise, the industry should clearly welcome the commitment made to further community energy projects; but, again, greater clarity is needed for the roll-out.
“The government’s current big hope is to reform the electricity market alongside the roll-out of wind and solar energy, which is crucial to maximising investor confidence” Mr Waterfield said. “But, to achieve this, the need to prove market and legislative stability across all technologies without alienating the investors is crucial to the future of the industry.”
Savills Energy is a dedicated real estate and capital advisory service created to specifically assist the inception, planning, development and continued operation of assets and infrastructure connected to the energy production and storage sector. It has over 600 offices and associates in 46 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.