Greens to challenge government energy policy for breaching EU rules on a fair and competitive market

Molly_solarpanels@BristolMolly Scott Cato is set to challenge the government over changes to energy policy through the EU’s Competition Commission. Molly is confident the findings of a new report she commissioned demonstrate that the Tory government is breaching EU rules on a fair and competitive market [1].

The report finds that the pace and intensity of interventions by the government in the UK’s energy policy have severely impacted the renewable energy sector. In particular, the report concludes, there are ‘valid concerns about the approach and intent of recent policy changes as well as effects on the competitive operation of the electricity market in the UK’. The report finds ‘clear breaches of regulations, both at a UK and EU level’ and that policy changes could undermine the UK’s ability to meet its mandated emissions and renewable energy targets.

The report also suggests a deliberate strategy to favour certain parts of the energy sector over others, thereby creating an inherently uneven playing field. In particular nuclear and fossil-fuel investors are being offered preferential treatment over renewable investors, say the researchers.

The launch of the report comes as the Green Party meet for their annual Spring conference in Harrogate. Molly, who is also the Green Party’s economics and finance speaker, said:

“This report provides clear evidence of the devastating impact that ideologically driven policy changes have had on the renewables sector. Ultimately we hope the Competition Commission will force the government to change policy so that the energy market operates fairly and in accordance with EU rules. We are finding huge support from the renewables sector which has been so badly hit by destructive government policy.”

The report paints a particularly bleak picture of the South West, suggesting policy changes have left the region ‘in complete stasis’, despite having the potential to produce 100% of energy needs from renewables. This, argues the researchers, runs ‘directly contrary to the intentions of EU Directives.’ Merlin Hyman, Chief Executive of RegenSW, a not-for-profit organisation promoting and supporting the renewables sector, said:

“We are now in the strange situation where the government is subsiding nuclear, gas and even diesel generation at much higher rates than renewables. This makes no economic or environmental sense. With a level playing field, renewables in the South West and across the UK can and will continue to thrive.”

Andrew Shadrake, a Devon-based community renewables specialist, added:

“This report lays out, in forensic detail, the government’s assault on the UK renewables industry since the election. It demonstrates a systematic demolition of the support structure for an industry which created over 12,000 high value jobs in the South West alone, based on arguments which are, in some cases, demonstrably false. The evidence in the report suggests that the government may have acted contrary to rules requiring a fair and competitive electricity market for renewables, including by favouring fossil fuels.  Molly Scott Cato’s intention to raise questions regarding this with the EU Competition Commissioner is to be applauded”.

Molly concluded:

“I hope this report and the actions we plan to take on the back of it will help empower and re-power the embattled renewables energy sector in the UK. If this sector is supported rather than hindered it will deliver the jobs and the clean green energy our economy and environment are crying out for.”

[1] Renewable Energy in the UK: A Study of the UK Government’s recent performance, researched and written by Ben Lundie, Bruce Woodman and Ioannis Papadopoulos of Green Peninsula February 2016. See full details