Industry leaders and campaigners have responded angrily to Prime Minister David Cameron’s call to “roll back” the charges on energy bills which fund energy efficiency policies.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament, Mr Cameron indicated a u-turn on his “greenest Government ever” pledge and said: “We need to roll back some of the green regulations and charges.”
But Paul King, Chief Executive the UK Green Building Council, warned bills would rise without energy efficiency policies.
He added: “The Prime Minister’s comments on rolling back green charges on energy bills are incredibly short-sighted and potentially very damaging.
“With the cost of energy bills going up, policies such as ECO are essential in ensuring the homes of vulnerable and poorer income people are well insulated and will help to keep their bills down in the longer term.
“The Government’s own analysis shows that without these policies, bills will be much higher in the future.”
David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK, added: “It’s worrying to hear the Prime Minister call for the ‘rolling back’ of green regulations. Doing so could be a false economy, and not save money in the long run. Acting now to insulate homes and help people be more energy efficient is the best way to reduce their energy bills immediately.
“Measures to tackle climate change are in place for a reason – to decarbonise our economy, increase our energy security, create jobs and encourage investment. The Government’s own Committee on Climate Change has said clearly that the measures we have in place to decarbonise our economy represent the minimum action we can take to hit emissions reductions targets.
“We need to be clear too: from the CCC, to the International Energy Agency and to Lord Stern, the message is the same: delaying action on tackling climate change will cost people more. The Prime Minister’s rhetoric alone could undermine investor confidence, putting jobs and investment at risk.”
And Greenpeace deputy political director Joss Garman commented: “When it is gas prices and the greed of the big six energy companies that is the real reason for energy bill hikes, the Prime Minister is wrong to pin the blame on clean energy.
“Investment in renewable energy can actually help families squeezed by rising bills by reducing consumers’ exposure to the roulette wheel of international gas prices – the main reason for price hikes.
“It was David Cameron himself who championed these green energy levies as opposition leader, and who joined with then Energy Secretary Ed Miliband to vote them into law. He owns these measures every bit as much as the Labour leader – and he should put customers interests before the big six energy giants."
Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: “With rocketing gas prices sending fuel bills soaring, the best way for the Prime Minister to protect cash-strapped households is through a comprehensive energy efficiency programme and ending the nation’s dependency on costly fossil fuels.
“Our electricity system is broken – we need to end the way the Big Six control the market, starting with a clean power target in the Energy Bill.”
And REA Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska called for clarification on the comments.
She said: “David Cameron must clarify which levies he is looking to roll back and how, or risk severely undermining investor confidence at a time when this country desperately needs investment in new low carbon capacity. Renewables are the only low carbon options on the table to bridge the near term capacity crunch, which will bite well before new nuclear or shale gas come on-stream.
“Renewables policy makes up only 3% of average bills overall and less than a third of the Government’s ‘green levies’, so politicians and the media are simply wrong to say that green energy is to blame for pushing up bills. It is the ever-increasing cost of gas which has been the main cause of rising bills in recent months and years. With more energy-efficient homes and more home-grown renewables we become less exposed to these volatile gas markets.
“In return for investing in renewables now, we create skilled green jobs in innovative new industries, bringing areas of previous industrial decline back to life. In the long-term we will also get lower, more stable energy prices and preserve a climate which is safe for our families in the future.”