MPs sound alarm as green investment plummets to lowest for ten years

16 May 2018

Environmental Audit Committee publish report on green finance: mobilising investment in clean energy & sustainable development.

Collapse in clean energy investment

Ministers must publish a plan to secure the investment needed to meet the UK’s carbon budgets after a series of Government policy changes have contributed to a collapse in clean energy investment, according to MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee.

The latest figures for low-carbon energy investment show that there has been a ‘dramatic and worrying collapse’ since 2015 that threatens the UK’s ability to meet its carbon budgets.  In cash terms, investment in clean energy fell by 10% in 2016 and 56% in 2017. Annual investment in clean energy is now at its lowest since 2008. Huge policy and investment challenges remain in decarbonising transport, domestic heating and industry.

Chair's Comments

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

“Billions of pounds of investment is needed in clean energy, transport, heating and industry to meet our carbon targets. But a dramatic fall in investment is threatening the Government’s ability to meet legally binding climate change targets. The Government’s Clean Growth Strategy was long on aspiration, but short on detail.”

“The Government must urgently plug this policy gap and publish its plan to secure the investment required to meet the UK’s climate change targets. It should provide greater clarity on how it intends to deliver the Clean Growth Strategy by the 2018 Budget, and explore how a Sovereign Green Bond could kickstart its Clean Growth Strategy.”

The report finds that:

  • The Government’s Clean Growth Strategy does not do enough to meet legally binding climate change targets, even if all its policies are delivered in full.
  • The privatisation of the Green Investment Bank and a reduction in European Investment Bank lending following the referendum may also have played a part in the fall in investment.
  • It is likely that changes to low-carbon energy policy in 2015 undermined investor confidence and led to a reduction in the number of projects in development.
  • The UK Government should negotiate to maintain the UK’s relationship with the European Investment Bank, which would allow riskier early-stage green infrastructure projects in the UK continued access to development bank finance.
  • Issuing a Sovereign Green Bond could present an opportunity for the Government to set a benchmark of good practice for domestic green bonds be a useful mechanism to raise the capital necessary to deliver our carbon budgets.
  • Ministers should find new ways to support councils to mobilise investment in low carbon projects.
  • Fixed-price contracts will be key to ensuring a pipeline of low-carbon energy projects and a steadily rising carbon price will be necessary to achieve our carbon budgets in the 2020s and 2030s.
  • The falling cost of generating electricity from wind and solar power means that we can now secure clean energy capacity at lower prices, which may have cushioned the impact of the fall in cash investment. 

UK progress on redirecting investment

The UK has made significant progress in redirecting investment towards cleaner sources of power since the Climate Change Act was passed in 2008. The proportion of our electricity generated from low-carbon sources doubled between 2009 and 2017 and reached a record 50% last year. This has helped to put the UK on track to meet our carbon budgets up to 2022.

Cross-Departmental ambition of the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy

The Committee is encouraged by the cross-Departmental ambition of the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy, but it will still lead to a shortfall in meeting our fourth and fifth carbon budgets between 2023-2032 - even if all its policies are delivered in full. The report calls on Ministers to urgently plug this policy gap and publish a delivery plan to secure the investment needed to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.

Notes to editors

In 2015 the Government made the following changes to policy which harmed confidence in low-carbon projects:

  • closed the Renewables Obligation to onshore wind one year earlier than had previously been announced;
  • removed the Climate Change Levy (CCL) exemption for renewables;
  • reduced Feed-In-Tariffs for small scale renewable generation;
  • cancelled the Zero Carbon Homes policy due to come into force in 2016; and
  • cancelled the £1 billion Carbon Capture & Storage competition.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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