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Rebel MPs fail to force feed-in tariffs rethink

A campaign to force the Government to introduce feed-in tariffs as soon as possible has been stalled despite 33 rebel Labour MPs backing the move.

The MPs voted against the Government in favour of an amendment to the Energy Bill which would have encouraged homes, businesses and communities to install renewable energy systems such as solar panels.

The campaign has been led by Friends of the Earth and the Renewable Energy Association and received the backing of pop singer Lily Allen.

Now campaigners hope the House of Lords will reintroduce the ammendment which would have required energy companies to provide long-term contracts guaranteeing a premium price for all renewable energy generated by homes, businesses and communities.

Supporters argue the strategy, known as feed-in tariffs, would make renewable technologies significantly more cost-effective to install.

Labour MP Alan Simpson, who tabled the amendment, told the House of Commons: “The international picture is this: almost 50 countries have introduced some sort of feed-in tariff legislation. As a result, most of those countries are well ahead of the UK in delivering a proportion of energy from renewable sources.

“The UK currently delivers about 2 per cent. of its energy from renewable sources. According to the aspirations that have been teased out from the Bill, it is clear that, at best, the UK will reach a position where it might be delivering 5 per cent of our energy from renewable sources by 2020.

“We have entered into an EU commitment to deliver 15 per cent of our energy from renewable sources by that time.

“It is quite clear, therefore, that we will need a quantum shift in the policy framework to allow the UK to deliver 15 per cent. of our energy from renewable sources by 2020.”

Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth's Economics campaigner, said: 'This vote clearly shows that Labour MPs are unhappy with the Government's appalling record on renewable energy.

'Feed-in tariffs could provide a real financial incentive for homes, businesses and communities to install green energy systems and help tackle climate change.

'There is enormous and growing support for a UK feed-in tariff. The House of Lords must amend the Energy Bill to introduce this vital policy for supporting renewable energy.'

The Government has said that it will look at a feed-in tariff as part of a review of renewable
energy later this year.

malcolm wicks  Energy minister Malcolm Wicks said: “I am not surprised that we are again revisiting this issue and that there is considerable cross-party support for a feed-in tariff for microgeneration.
“Although I can appreciate the desire to ensure that we have the right incentives and mechanisms in place to increase the deployment of renewable energy, especially in the light of our EU 2020 target, I cannot support this particular new clause.
“It seeks to require the Secretary of State to introduce a feed-in tariff, but it does not specify the size of generation it covers. It could cover all sizes of energy generation, large as well as small. If adopted, that could have a potentially serious effect on investor confidence.
“Whatever the merits of feed-in tariffs in other countries, we need to consider what will work best in the UK. I know that it is sometimes tempting to go to a country such as Germany and say that everything looks greener, but we need to beware of simple comparisons.
“Feed-in tariffs and the renewables obligation are simply different methods of providing support to renewables projects.
“There should be no theology about this. We are talking about different mechanisms and which mechanisms might be fit for purpose in the UK.
Mr Wicks said 2 GW of energy was provided via renewables, another 1.5 GW was under construction, 6.5 GW has been consented and is awaiting construction and 10 GW is now in the planning process.
He said: “We will launch a consultation this summer on what we should do to increase renewable energy use to meet our share of the EU 2020 target.
That will cover a broad range of issues and involve collaborative efforts across Government and with business, consumers and the wider community. The proposals will strive for the best value for money for UK taxpayers and consumers. As the Prime Minister explained in November, we want a serious national debate about how to achieve our targets.
“Some will be aware that I announced in Committee that as part of the strategy, we will examine a range of options further to support microgeneration, including a consideration of whether a feed-in tariff might be a better support mechanism than the renewables obligation for small-scale generation—I am thinking here of domestic dwellings, community schemes, small civic buildings and small businesses.”

Other organisations supporting the amendment included the House Builders Federation, Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Federation of Master Builders, National Farmers Union, WWF, RSPB, TUC, Greenpeace, Country Land and Business Association, UK Green Building Council, Energywatch, Energy Savings Trust, The Co-op Group, Sharp UK, Solarcentury, National Energy Action, Solar Trade Association, Worcester Bosch, Ground Source Heat Pump Association, Unison, Public and Commercial Services Union.