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Big businesses show backing for clean energy

Big businesses show backing for clean energy

Big businesses show backing for clean energy

A number of major corporations have joined a campaign urging the government to get behind renewables like wind and solar power, emphasising the business case for sustainability and energy efficiency.

On the eve of a critical climate summit, firms including Tesco, BT and Marks & Spencer, as well as organisations headquartered outside the UK like Nestle, Unilever, Ikea and Panasonic, put their signatures on a letter urging David Cameron to ensure stable policies and adequate funding for clean energy.

These businesses collectively employ more than a million people around the world.

The action came in the wake of a wave of criticism for the government, which has been accused of failing to show sufficient support for sustainable methods of generating electricity.

One of the most significant policy changes is an 87 per cent reduction in the feed-in tariff, a source of funding for small-scale renewable energy projects.

This proposal has attracted criticism from high-profile figures including former US vice-president and environmental campaigner Al Gore, London mayor Boris Johnson, the UN's chief environment scientist and the chair of the Climate Change Committee.

In the letter, the businesses warned the prime minister that one of the most damaging outcomes of regular changes in energy policy will be weaker investor confidence, which will make it even more difficult for companies specialising in renewables to gain financing.

The instability resulting from policy adjustments could also affect the UK's ability to compete in low-carbon industries, which can be expected to grow significantly in future.

According to the signatories, a gradual phase-out of government support for clean power would be preferable to the steep cuts that have been proposed.

The latest figures show that renewable energy already accounts for nearly a quarter of the electricity being generated in the UK, but the companies signing the letter expressed confidence that this can be increased significantly in future.

Greenpeace gave its backing to the letter, which called on Mr Cameron to "put forward policies to support the growth of the UK renewables sector through the 2020s", as well as setting "an appropriately sized budget for the Levy Control Framework in the post-2020 period as soon as possible".

Commenting specifically on solar power, Shinichiro Ishihara, manager at Panasonic EU, said the industry is maturing and has made "fantastic strides", delivering real benefits for many UK homeowners.

However, he warned that the government should not reduce support for the sector too early and "push the bird out of the nest before it can properly fly".

Dame Fiona Kendrick, chairman and CEO of Nestle UK and Ireland, said the company is committed to achieving 100 per cent renewable electricity across all of its operations.

"In order to achieve this in the UK and Ireland in the shortest timescale possible, we recognise the importance of having an enabling and stable policy environment to support business in achieving such ambitious goals," she added.

Barbara Stoll, senior energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: "All these companies are asking for is a bit more clarity, certainty and a long-term plan to support our clean energy sector for a few more years until it can go subsidy-free.

"The climate summit gives Mr Cameron an opportunity to take this on board."

 

Posted by Julie Tucker

Image courtesy of Thinkstock