In the light of the referendum result, it’s certainly tempting in these unprecedented times, in the period of uncertainty and of market volatility since the vote, to focus only on the challenges ahead, on the difficulties we know we will face over the coming weeks and months.
Energy companies, National Grid and energy policy experts are starting to give voice to what’s at stake in terms of investment, jobs and consumer bills, if we lose access to the European Energy Market. In public and private the fears are very real, the stakes very high.
But it is precisely now, at this moment which is so unpredictable and uncertain, that we should reflect both on what we can still offer Britain in the future; cheap, home grown, low-carbon sources of electricity, and large scale capital investment at a time when we know we will really need it.
We are not expensive - we are cheap. We are not inefficient subsidy junkies but innovators, market disruptors, the risk takers on which a dynamic economy depends, investing in energy storage, developing new business models, driving change, creating jobs. We are not alone, out of step with the rest of the world, but part of a global investment story which now dominates from China to the United States and from Africa to Europe.
As I have argued recently, onshore wind is now the cheapest form of large scale, new electricity generation available in Britain. A remarkable position given how so many of our critics attack us on the grounds of cost. It’s crucial this is known more widely, and equally vital that politics doesn’t get in the way of consumers benefiting from this plentiful, good value resource, and the cost reduction the industry has achieved in recent years. Give us a chance to compete and let us show what we can do.
The Chancellor George Osborne has set out three challenges we all share, whatever our view of last week’s referendum result. First to deliver immediate financial stability, second to resolve our relationship with the EU and third to reassert the values of our country.
How can we, in the renewables sector, contribute to this stability? There remains in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a pipeline of onshore wind plants that are ready to build now, ready to be deployed, ready to be financed, projects which can generate economic activity and capital investment, projects it makes sense to build given the benefits they will bring and the challenges we now face. This represents hundreds of millions of pounds in capital investment for our economies over the next few years, helping companies all over Britain just at a time when we most need it most.
Surely now is the time to all work together and get building. To achieve this, it is vital that onshore wind retains an ability to compete and to build a route to market, as part of the nations’ balanced and secure energy mix. We need to build on the transformation we have witnessed over recent years, attracting investment and creating jobs to help support Britain.
The offer is there. We now need to work to build a broad coalition, one that reaches out across the energy sector, across industry, across all political parties, all parts of Britain and Northern Ireland, to help deliver it.
This blog first appeared in BusinessGreen