Prominent financier and investor Guy Hands has argued that the crisis in Ukraine demonstrates the importance of the energy security provided by domestic renewable energy projects.
Amid concern over Russia cutting off the gas, Hands, the founder and chairman of the private equity firm Terra Firma Capital Partners, criticised the Conservative party’s controversial plans to cut subsidies for onshore wind farms.
“We should be grateful to President Putin for bringing energy security back to the top of the political agenda in Europe”, he told the Guardian.
“But it is up to us to ensure we understand and act on the long-term threat. And that is certainly not by turning our backs on renewable energy, no matter how persistent or loud the voices against it.”
Hands is closely linked to the Tories – with foreign secretary and former party leader William Hague the best man at his wedding. However, he believes the party’s manifesto pledge to cut support for onshore wind – the “most affordable” form of renewables – is misguided.
“We have a large industry of successful and enterprising renewable energy businesses which are ready to rise to the challenge of powering homes and businesses from clean and sustainable sources”, he said.
“But politicians are being pressed by a coalition of opponents of renewable energy to ignore this potential.
Terra Firma invests in onshore wind and other renewables through independent energy generator Infinis. The firm was a small landfill gas business with an installed capacity of capacity was 57 megawatts (MW) when Terra Firma first invested in it.
It now boasts an installed renewable energy generating capacity of 574MW – 221MW coming from wind projects. In 2013, it was the third largest UK renewable generator.
It is essential, Hands added, that politicians realise the energy market cannot be treated like others and simply left to market forces, as “energy is not just another commodity but the lifeblood of an economy”.
“No responsible government can step away from a market which is at the heart of a nation’s security and prosperity”, he said.
Ministers argued that the effects of climate change and the recent unrest in Europe demand a long-term plan.
In a review on the potential of fracking published last week, members of the House of Lords urged the government to make shale gas exploitation a “national priority”, partly because of fears over the stability of supplies from Europe.
However, some of fracking’s many critics countered that the shale gas industry could not deliver the benefits that increased investment in renewables would surely provide.
“The point is we simply don’t need to be going down this road, there is a road that is there with energy efficiency, renewable energy, community energy, decentralised energy – these are the secure energies of the future”, said Green party MP Caroline Lucas.
“If we go down the road of fracking we will lock ourselves into a fossil fuel future, which will be very hard to get out of.”
Photo: Charles Cook via Flickr