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Government policy biggest threat to clean energy, says academic

The biggest threat to renewable energy in the UK, and the country’s energy systems, comes from a lack of clarity on the part of the government, a leading academic has told The Guardian.

Rob Gross, director of Imperial College London’s Centre for Energy Policy, said: “[There is a] lack of clarity over what [the government] wants people to do. This lack of clarity is erasing investment in everything. With more clarity, you would get more investment.”

Under the “political machinations” of the previous coalition government, the amount bill payers were expected to contribute in support for low-carbon power was made “subject to a cap”, he said, but “there is no decision on what that cap will be after 2020”, leaving energy investors in the dark.

Not just renewable energy, but gas and nuclear power were suffering, he said. The government has been unwilling to provide long-term direction and has repeatedly made major changes to energy regulation, including reversals in renewable electricity subsidy regimes, increased support for nuclear energy and delays to carbon capture and storage.

Under the Conservative government, subsidies to onshore wind and solar have been slashed and planning obstacles put in the way of onshore turbines.

The renewable energy industry has accused the government of deterring investors with its repeated changes to the subsidy and regulatory regimes.

At the Conservative Party Conference, energy secretary Amber Rudd said the UK “must be tough on subsidies” if it is to meet its renewable energy targets while also protecting consumers.

She added that recent cuts to subsidies had been “motivated by a need to get the balance right” between supporting renewable energies and consumer costs.

Addressing concerns the cuts may be motivated by an “ideological opposition to anything green”, Ms Rudd said this could not be further from the truth.

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