Prime Minister Liz Truss – climate friend or foe?
The battle for the next Prime Minister(ship) has no doubt come at an interesting time – probably for most people – but certainly for those of us working in the planning and renewables sector.
One of the major criticisms is the lack of debate around climate change and de-carbonisation throughout the election campaign. Which is regretful – as before the current media attention on the rise of energy bills, our progress on climate action felt like it was heading in the right general direction, albeit slower than we might like. We’ve seen more wind and solar projects coming forward, tidal power, biomass and now the introduction of hydrogen.
The recent guidance on the process of making Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project applications easier, a commitment from Welsh ministers wanting to take up the reigns as a centre for green energy, with the Crown Estate part way through its next round of offshore wind farm leases alongside the Energy Security Strategy – all felt positive.
But now that we know Liz Truss is the one to take over the reins at Number 10, what is this likely to mean for our industry? She described herself as a “teenage eco warrior before it was fashionable.” But what has she actually been suggesting?
Firstly, she has been clear she wants to address how our energy supply can be increased by dealing with what she calls the “root cause” – but isn’t totally clear what this is.
Her proposed solution to reduce energy bills is to remove green levies – which feels very much like a short-term solution and possibly a step back for support for green energy as part of everyday life.
She has also ruled out a windfall tax on energy companies to generate more income.
In her statement to the Conservative Environment Network she was clear, “…low-carbon industries are growing and I want to see them go from strength to strength, investing in local communities, creating jobs and driving our levelling up agenda.”
She has committed to a net zero target and expressed support for COP26, but at the same time has been quoted saying that solar arrays are “one the most depressing sights” (her opposition to solar farms is long held) and also opposes biomass power.
Instead, she suggests that she will sign off on new oil fields and gas drilling licenses in the North Sea – in the face of opposition from the Scottish Government. There also seems to have been no clear position from her on if she would support more onshore wind.
The Independent has described her position as a “genocidal suicide note to humanity” and someone who is unfit to lead the country. However, the members of the Conservative Party clearly disagree.
As for the renewables sector, we will have to wait and see if she follows through on her pre-election statements – or, like many before her, changes her mind once in office.