It’s May 2010 and a new coalition government has entered Downing Street. Flowers are in bloom, lambs are a-springing (allegedly) and newly elected Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his intention to make this the “greenest government ever”.
Fast forward nine months and energy secretary Chris Huhne is coming under attack with senior business officials, internet campaigns and opposition politicians among those criticising him for fast-tracking government’s review of feed-in-tariffs for ‘major’ solar farms.
Government ministers are repeatedly being urged to come clean on nuclear power, insisting it won’t receive public subsidies while simultaneously admitting it may have a role to play in the proposed green investment bank, while Centrica’s £2bn link-up with Qatargas, eagerly welcomed yesterday by the Prime Minister, would appear to fly in the face of the government’s drive towards renewable energy.
As recently as November the International Energy Agency was warning that an increase in gas supply would spell trouble for the development of renewable energy including wind and nuclear power. However securing energy supply is important for society, particularly a ‘big society’ like ours so perhaps we can’t blame Mr Cameron for getting excited.
But for construction firms, for house builders and businesses, they are hearing over and over again about sustainability and the need to drive green growth; the amount of work it will create and the need to install renewable energy systems while being beaten with the ‘if you don’t start upskilling now you risk being left behind’ stick.
So now attention shifts to next month’s budget and firms look to the government to advise them what they can do and how it will help them win work and provide jobs.
So where to start?
Heard about the Green Deal? Green investment bank? Zero carbon homes? Zero carbon non domestic property targets? Accreditation for green deal installation? The code for sustainable homes?
How about the Energy Bill?
How about emissions performance standards? Passivhaus? Carbon reduction commitment scheme? Mass retrofitting and carbon compliance?
And that’s just for starters. The list could fill a page.
So when every day a different lobby group calls for government guidance, forgive them for thinking it’s falling on deaf ears when any kind of guidance would do.
Work is being done in the field (every day we hear of a new low-carbon development or innovation) but confusion still appears to reign on the ground, particularly among smaller firms who know they need to make the right financial moves now, in what is an increasingly uncertain economic environment.
The EU says the UK is pretty bad at renewable energy. Yes you read correctly, at renewable energy. Research published late last year by Ernst & Young showed China was running away as the leader in the field while the UK is apparently third from bottom of the EU’s renewable energy table. But not to worry, Luxembourg and Malta still have a bit of catching up to do.
China spent half the amount the entire world spent on wind power in the second quarter of 2010. So maybe it’s just down to resources. But why then is a Chinese delegation including its vice premier visiting BRE’s centre in Watford to learn about sustainable buildings and homes.
Maybe we’re lagging behind because China’s economy is developing at a rate of knots.
Or maybe we’re just tying ourselves up in knots.