Saturday 22nd October 2016                 Change text size:

Huhne successor must ‘rebuild trust’ in energy policies

Photo: DECC via Flickr

Industry representatives have praised former energy secretary Chris Huhne for his work in pushing the environmental agenda forward. Alex Blackburne writes about how his replacement, Ed Davey, will have to be strong-willed to overcome the ‘anti-green’ ethos in Government.

Chris Huhne’s decision to resign as energy and climate change secretary has been met with regret by most in the sector, who claim that the Eastleigh MP should be “commended” for his efforts.

Huhne quit his post on Friday following confirmation from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that he would be charged with perverting the course of justice, after allegedly persuading his ex-wife to take points on her license on his behalf, in 2003.

But clearly we should all reserve judgement as we still retain the principle, in this country, that a person is innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Upon learning that he would be charged, Huhne, speaking outside his London flat, said, “The CPS’ decision today is deeply regrettable.

I am innocent of these charges and I intend to fight this in the courts and I am confident that a jury will agree”.

After occupying the role for just over 20 months, Huhne has received significant acclaim for his work in the sector.

Juliet Davenport, CEO and founder of Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier, was amongst those to applaud his efforts.

Whatever the terms of his departure, few can deny that Chris Huhne has really shaken up the energy debate over the last two years”, she said.

He has certainly been successful in driving that agenda forward”.

Friends of the Earth’s executive director, Andy Atkins, also reserved praise for the Lib Dem MP.

Chris Huhne has championed the environment in an administration that’s shown little enthusiasm for keeping David Cameron’s pledge to be the greenest Government ever.

He should be commended for insisting on tougher climate targets and fighting for a Green Investment Bank – but his department’s incompetent handling of solar cuts has put 29,000 jobs at risk”.

Atkins is referring to the Government’s proposed cuts to its feed-in tariff (FiT), a scheme that sees individuals rewarded for their use of renewable energy.

The solar sector responded angrily to the suggested slashes, with the High Court eventually ruling them to be legally flawed.

Huhne’s replacement as energy and climate change secretary is fellow Lib Dem Ed Davey, who was previously minister for employment relations, consumer and postal affairs.

David Hunt, director at renewable energy company Eco Environments, highlighted an opportunity for Davey to stop the Government’s appeal against the FiT ruling.

Such a move would send out a positive message to Britain’s beleaguered renewable energy that the Government does not want to send hundreds of solar businesses to the wall and throw tens of thousands of workers on to the employment scrapheap”, he said.

It was always going to be hard for Chris Huhne to make such a decision, but there is no reason why his successor should not make this the first priority in his in-tray and give a much needed shot in the arm to an industry which offers so much exciting potential for Britain’s economy”.

Meanwhile, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, Gaynor Hartnell, called for Davey to “make rebuilding investor trust and confidence in the Government’s renewable energy policies [his] number one priority”.

Friends of the Earth’s Andy Atkins said Davey “must stand firm against George Osborne’s anti-green agenda and make the case that protecting our environment is a way to boost not hinder our economic recovery”.

One of the ways the Government is planning to do this is through the foundation of a Green Investment Bank – something that is currently in the pipeline.

Through FiT, and policies like the Green Deal, Chris Huhne had established himself as a noted proponent for environmental progression.

The circumstances under which he leaves his post are therefore unfortunate given his admirable contribution to UK energy policy.

As secretary of state he has certainly been successful in asking the right questions about the way we source and use energy”, reflected Good Energy’s Juliet Davenport.

In recent months, his particularly staunch defence of the role of renewable energy in meeting those challenges has been welcome.

It is vital that [Ed Davey] keeps the momentum behind energy market reform going.

But that has to be matched with a willingness to listen on things like the need for a more decentralised energy market, where many proposals still fall short”.

Davey has the chance to step up the UK’s green agenda, but it remains to be seen as to whether he’ll have the same kind of impact as Huhne did.

You can help make his job a lot easier by advocating renewable energy in your home.

Get in touch with Good Energy, who can make your home’s energy 100% renewable.

Picture source: Dave Radcliffe

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