Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has called for the UK to “unlock major investment” in renewable energy, in an article written for the New Statesman.
The article, which coincided with a speech made by the Labour MP on Wednesday night at the annual Green Alliance debate, unveils Labour’s vision for a “green economic future”.
Balls said, “Getting energy policy right for the next 20 years is one of the biggest challenges – and the biggest opportunity – our economy faces in this generation.”
He also acknowledged the widespread consensus among the British public that renewable energy should be viewed as a matter of national urgency: “The scope and breadth of the consensus across business and the environmental lobby is striking – something that would have been impossible to imagine a decade ago.”
Balls criticised the coalition government’s commitments to clean energy, saying, “In 2010, the UK was third in the world for investment in green growth – but we have since fallen down the league tables.”
He also took aim at George Osborne on green policies, saying that the chancellor “has cast further doubt on the government’s long-term commitment to a low-carbon future” by “talking up the possibility of an implausible shale gas bonanza to justify tacking away from renewables after the 2020 targets run out”.
In the 2013 budget, Green party MP Caroline Lucas wrote on Twitter, “Not a single word about renewable in #Budget 2013 – instead locking us into higher prices & higher emissions via tax breaks to shale gas #Fail”.
Osborne said in the budget that “creating a low-carbon economy should be done in a way that creates jobs – not costs them”, but the Guardian’s Adam Vaughan pointed out that he failed to mention how this should be done.
In response to Osborne’s budget, Greenpeace energy campaigner, Lawrence Carter, said, “The chancellor is slashing public services with one hand while gifting tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry with the other. This is unfair on struggling households, especially when everyone from the energy regulator Ofgem to BP to the energy secretary say UK fracking won’t bring down bills.”
Osborne also indicated that financial grants would be paid to communities that welcomed the extraction of shale gas in their regions.
In contrast, David Cameron, whilst opening the world’s largest offshore wind farm in the Thames estuary in July, said, “What the London Array shows – powering half a million homes, the biggest offshore wind farm anywhere in the world – it absolutely shows that you can do scale renewables and you can do them right here in Britain.”
Reacting to Balls’ comments, a spokesperson for Friends of the Earth said, “Ed Balls has affirmed what the vast majority of energy experts know to be true; that a shale gas bonanza is ‘implausible’ and that renewable energy will bring investment, jobs and energy security to Britain.”
They added, “This rational analysis is in stark contrast to the current government’s tired fossil fuel obsession and shale gas hype.”