The Green Party would create jobs by investing in green technology. It is instructive to compare the records of Britain and Germany in this area. When the Greens in Germany joined the coalition government, they forced through a series of measures on renewable energy including:
- Support for research and development of renewable energy systems.
- A feed-in-tariff [FIT] that guaranteed for 20 years the price of electricity sold to the grid
- A commitment to close the nuclear power stations.
- Business was required to source renewable power in preference to conventional power.
- The FIT encouraged many small and domestic generators to invest in renewable systems.
As a result of all these measures Germany raised its renewable output from 6% in 2000 to 15% in 2010, exceeding this year’s European target of 12%. In that time the UK raised its renewable electricity generation from below 2% to 5% and is aiming for 15% by 2020.
Through its investment in R & D, Germany has created 300,000 jobs in the renewable sector, increasing employment in this sector by 8% through the recession. It is now investing heavily in photovoltaics and is aiming to become a world leader in this technology.
The UK’s more tentative investment strategy, determined as it is to protect and promote coal and nuclear power, created probably 70,000 jobs. There is not a wind turbine factory in the country, despite having the greatest wind resource in Europe. We have some centres of excellence, but these are likely to face budget cuts.
The main financial support mechanism for renewable electricity is the Renewable Obligation. This requires industry to source a proportion of its electricity from renewables. It guarantees an above market price to renewable generators. The UK has recently introduces a FIT scheme designed for small generators.
The Tories plan to scrap the Renewable Obligation. Although it is a complex scheme, the Green Party does not support scrapping it. The industry needs security of investment, and that includes knowing what price electricity will fetch during the investment life of a project, usually 20 years. Uncertainty stops investment. Better to maintain the commitment under the RO and phase in the FIT scheme for new developments while keeping the FIT commitment to small and domestic generators.
The Tories will expand nuclear power, following the policies produced by the big energy companies like EDF who want to invest in big ‘base load’ plant. They claim that the variable nature of renewables, they mean wind and solar only, makes these plants essential to guarantee supply in all climatic conditions.
The Green Party opposes nuclear. Base load can be provided by a combination of sustainable biomass, wave and tidal schemes. Also, we support the development of the trans-Europe High Voltage Direct Current grid to link solar arrays in North Africa, [bringing much needed revenue to the Saharan states], wind farms across Europe and Hydro-plant. This grid will supply base-load.
Couple the above strategy with efficiency, reduction in demand and insulation and we can do without nuclear with its long-term heritage of waste and inherent security risk, without fear that the lights will go out.
Note: the output of UK nuclear stations has increased in the last quarter to 20%, running above the contribution from coal for the first time. This is to enable the Government meet its carbon reduction targets with out actually doing anything, and adding strength to their [and the civil servants at the dept of Energys’] argument that we need nuclear power.