One of the Government’s most senior Lib Dem ministers will today attack critics of wind farms, calling them “short-termists, arm-chair engineers, curmudgeons and faultfinders”.
Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, is planning to deploy an extraordinary range of insults to describe people who find fault with wind, solar, tidal and wave energy.
The minister’s hardline support for renewable energy is understood to have antagonised senior Conservatives, including Chancellor George Osborne.
Mr Osborne has previously expressed concern about green initiatives that are “piling costs on the energy bills of households and companies”.
“We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business,” he said in his speech at the Conservative party conference.
In what appears to be a remark aimed at the Treasury, Mr Huhne will today echo these words, saying: “We are not going to save our economy by turning our back on renewable energy.”
“At a time when closures and cuts dominate the news cycle, next-generation industries are providing jobs and sinking capital into Britain,” he will say. “I want to take aim at the curmudgeons and faultfinders who hold forth on the impossibility of renewables. The climate sceptics and armchair engineers who are selling Britain’s ingenuity short.”
Mr Huhne and several other senior Lib Dems will make speeches today, while Prime Minister David Cameron was supposed to be abroad for talks on the eurozone crisis – until the meeting was postponed last night.
The Energy Secretary will argue that the renewable energy industries have created 9,000 UK jobs and attracted almost £2 billion of investment.
However, critics said Mr Huhne should not be vilifying everyone who disagrees with his policies on renewable energy.
Simon Less, head of energy at the Policy Exchange think-tank, said: “Chris Huhne’s words are unhelpful and deeply worrying. Conflating those who want to see cost-effective carbon emissions reduction with climate science deniers, is insulting. To be greener, we must be cheaper.”
Mr Less is among the experts who are committed to tackling climate change, but believe expensive offshore wind farms are not the most cost effective way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
“What cannot be defended is wasting tens of billions of pounds on excessive short-term deployment of hugely expensive technologies, such as offshore wind,” he said. “This damages decarbonisation. Chris Huhne’s figures suggest £100,000 to £200,000 of subsidies per renewables job. That’s money taken away from other potential growth sectors.”
Dr Matthew Brown, head of energy for the CBI, Britain’s business group, was more supportive, saying that Mr Huhne was “right to highlight the economic opportunity for the UK”. However, he also said businesses need “certainty in both policy and language” if they are going to choose Britain as a place to build wind farms and other renewables.
The Treasury and the Department for Energy and Climate Change have clashed several times during the course of the coalition over the cost of subsidies for green power.
But Mr Huhne won a victory last week by securing continued subsidies for wind power, solar and biomass, plus extra financial support for tidal energy.
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