The government’s controversial efforts to roll back a host of green policies have been dealt a dual blow by the House of Lords this week, after peers voted to retain subsidies for wind farms that boast local community support and backed an amendment to effectively reintroduce the scrapped zero carbon home standard.
The House of Lords yesterday defeated the government by 50 votes over a clause in the Energy Bill that would end Renewables Obligation (RO) subsidies for all onshore wind farms.
Labour successfully argued for an amendment to the bill that would extend the grace period for projects that command local support and were at an advanced stage of development when the government announced its intention to bring an end to access to the RO earlier than expected.
The opposition said there were around 66MW of projects in Scotland that would benefit from its proposals.
Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary Lisa Nandy said Labour would seek to defend the amendment when the Energy Bill returns to the Commons.
“Ministers should stop standing in the way of these wind farms, which enjoy local support and that could provide valued jobs and cheap, clean energy,” she said. “At a time when the UK is struggling to keep the lights on and meet our climate change commitments they should not be blocking the cheapest source of low-carbon energy.”
However, BusinessGreen understands the government is likely to oppose the amendment given it was defeated in the Commons the last time the Lords attempted to add it to the bill.
Ministers maintain an end to subsidies for onshore wind farms was a manifesto commitment, despite widespread opposition from a renewables industry that has repeatedly argued onshore wind farms are compatible with a separate manifesto commitment to deliver cost effective cuts to carbon emissions.
“This Energy Bill will help provide clean, affordable and secure energy whilst protecting bill payers,” said a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change. “Consensus has been reached in the House of Commons and we shouldn’t accept any further delay in introducing these important changes for families and businesses. We remain committed to delivering these measures when the Energy Bill returns to the House of Commons.”
The defeat for the government came less than 24 hours after peers voted for an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill that would effectively revive the controversially scrapped zero carbon homes standard by requiring the government to ensure “all new homes in England built from 1 April 2018 achieve the carbon compliance standard”.
The amendment was approved by 48 votes during the Lords report stage of the bill.
The move was welcomed by Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of the UK Green Building Council, who urged ministers to now reconsider last summer’s decision to scrap a regulation that had widespread industry support.
“During the 10 years prior to July 2015, the leading players spanning the housebuilding industry – developers, product manufacturers, contractors and engineers – got behind Zero Carbon Homes, investing heavily and innovating to make it a reality,” she said. “The unexpected and unwanted scrapping of the policy made a mockery of the government’s green credentials, and demonstrated complete disdain for the quality of the nation’s new homes and the industry’s investment.
“Having supported the Paris climate agreement with much fanfare, cutting carbon from new homes and buildings will be vital to achieving our commitments. Re-introducing the zero carbon homes standard would be a clear next step on this journey, and would provide the certainty the industry needs to continue investing in new skills and technologies.”
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government defended the decision to axe the zero carbon standard, arguing it would help speed up the development of new housing projects.
“We are already building some of the most energy efficient homes in the world,” he said. “Our current standards are tough and already have the full support of the industry. Our aim is to speed up house building and not add extra costs and bureaucracy. We do not need extra legislation as existing legislation is already in place to allow energy performance standards to be set in Building Regulations.”
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