“The situation is frankly astonishing” says Alexander Temerko, one of the Conservative Party’s top donors
An unprecedented attack on the UK coalition government’s energy policy has been launched by one of the Conservative Party’s biggest political donors, Mr Alexander Temerko, who has accused Chancellor George Osborne, Prime Minister David Cameron and Energy Secretary Ed Davey of squandering an opportunity to create thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of revenue by scaring off potential investors in the UK wind energy industry.
Mr Temerko is a significant energy investor who owns the company Offshore Group Newcastle which builds foundations for offshore wind turbines alongside the construction of oil and gas platforms. He was one of several Tory donors invited to a private dinner with high ranking Tories this year after having donated more than £50,000. Overall he has donated £208,500 to the party over the last two years. Nevertheless, Mr Temerko feels frustrated by the government’s “hypocritical” energy policy and believes that the Coalition is only paying lip-service to renewable energy on the basis of its failure to provide the necessary targets and clarity on subsidies for green electricity generation that are so vital to investors.
“He [Cameron] must be responsible for his words, his promises” Mr Temerko said. “We voted for him and part of his Conservative manifesto was to support green energy and renewables. But he has not done that.”
Mr Temerko is the first high-profile donor to actively and publicly criticize the government’s green energy policies, prompting Will Straw of the Institute of Public Policy Research, a top UK think-tank, to comment that “It is very significant that a foundation manufacturer has now criticised the Government’s approach to offshore wind. The Government should immediately legislate for a 2030 decarbonisation target [to green the power supply].”
“The situation is frankly astonishing” added Mr Temerko blaming the Prime Minister and Energy Secretary Ed Davey alongside the Chancellor for confusing investors. “The Treasury is definitely a big stakeholder for the uncertainty. But you can’t only blame George Osborne. The Government has been seriously, seriously, seriously misleading. It has given a declaration on renewable energy without crystallising what it’s going to do to support investment. Government policy is not fair at the moment. If it told us ‘look, we don’t want to develop a low-carbon economy anymore’, we would say ‘thank you, now we know what to do’. Instead, the Government has created big enthusiasm – but we are still waiting for a clear policy and definitive support. Green energy is very hypocritical from the government side.”
The UK’s geography gives the wind energy industry enormous potential and so Mr Temerko’s comments are primarily related to the wind sector which is unfortunately also the subject of widespread opposition from local communities but also from well-placed Tories occupying key positions within the government. According to Mr Temerko the UK now has to import some 82 percent of the components and services it needs for its wind energy sector from overseas instead of bolstering the supply chain and ensuring these parts and services are sourced from inside the UK. He has also drawn attention to the fact that the areas of the country with the richest industrial heritage are also those with the highest levels of unemployment, something that the renewable energy industry, particularly offshore wind, could transform into jobs and growth. Those goods and services could also be sold around the world adding much needed revenue to the UK economy.
“We can transfer those skills to the offshore wind industry to capture a windfall of jobs and investment that will otherwise go to Europe and the Far East,” Mr Temerko said. “There’s the potential to invest £70bn in British industry for UK offshore wind alone while the CEBR [Centre for Economics and Business Research] recently predicted that would create 170,000 jobs. But under present conditions, it is hard to see how that will materialise.”
Temerko not only argues that Britain still has an opportunity to build a world-class wind energy manufacturing and consultancy base employing thousands of people and generating billions of pounds of revenue, he is also angered by the lack of a decarbonisation target for electricity which would send a clear signal of confidence in the industry to investors as well as the lack of renewable energy target beyond 2020. He thinks that Ed Davey should have stood up to the Chancellor and that his message is strong and clear but also that the industry now needs to see some real progress.