When David Cameron entered 10 Downing Street, he talked about it being the greenest government ever. While they have had to be in coalition for much of the period that the have been in power, it is clear that much of the negative effects on the environment has been pushed through by the conservatives not their partners.
On shore wind turbine support
One of the most foolish changes that was made was to scrap support for onshore wind turbine support. This frankly is bizarre, as it has been shown that on-shore UK wind is the cheapest zero carbon electricity generation that there is. As in other areas that I will discuss later, this is not an area that will need to be supported indefinitely (as opposed to nuclear which the UK government has agreed to pay billions, way above market rate). Thankfully there has been a surge of private investors that have come in and so it has not had to much of an effect on the speed of introduction.
Solar subsidies to be axed
The government decided that it was not willing to support the solar industry. This was another bizarre home goal. Solar is likely, alongside wind, to be some of the cheapest way of generating electricity. Here is an article from May 2017 that is talking about this from India. What was peculiar about this government decision is that even the most negative predictions suggested that the solar industry would be the cheapest generation within a decade, yet the government suddenly decided that it was going to remove the support that had helped the nascent solar industry off the ground. There was a 65% reduction in solar jobs immediately after this decision. In March, to make things worse, the government decided that schools and businesses will have to pay rates on the solar panels some for the first time. For those who had to pay before, this will increase the tax by 800%. All attempt to talk about this with the government was simply rejected. This is perhaps the most foolish decision made, as it is an area that we could have bade a large amount of money from. We were leading the world, and would have been in a position to be able to make large amounts of money as solar was rolled out around the world, but we gave that up for a short term saving. While it may have been a foolish oversight, it is hard to see how this was not in intentional move to kill rooftop solar in the uk. It is true that over time it could be possible that residential solar could cause problems for power companies. Both Oil and Coal generation are likely to become far more expensive in the future, and it has been pointed out again and again, the solar industry is not asking for subsidies for ever, merely for them to be withdrawn gradually and for fair treatment against other power generation.
This one is another strange decision. The government was helping fossil fuel power stations to transfer to wood or biomass fuel, by giving a guaranteed subsidy. It was argued that this was serving the customers, as the subsidies added to the price of fuel bills. While this is theoretically true, it is absurdly short-sighted, which is concerning as generally the government is the body in a country that is relied upon to look with a long term view. It is completely undeniable that the price of petrol and oil is only going to go up, and this will have an impact on the cost of making electricity from fossil fuels. So it may have made a short term difference to pricing, but all but guarantees a higher cost of energy for the UK.
Making houses more efficient
This was a loan scheme that would allow people to borrow to be able to improve heat retention through draught proofing, additional insulation and fitting newer more efficient boilers. Amber Rudd scrapped this scheme, but had nothing to replace it with, and apart from people on low incomes, for which there is another scheme, there is no support. This is a further foolish move. For homes this can be net neutral on costs, as done on the correct property, the cost of repaying the loan can be offset against reduction in heating bills.
Selling the green bank
This was bizarre. It was decided that it had to be sold off quickly, with no specific reasoning (apart from perhaps reducing the deficit). It was sold with an increase on the cost of £186 million, but this does not take into account the money that this £2.3 billion might have made in the same period (even in a low interest account). Further more, it was a foolish decision given why it was set up: the bank was set up to invest in green technologies and power generation. This investment is going to be required and more over the next few decades, so it was odd to remove the bank that was set up to deal with this problem. The government does have a special share overseen by five trustees, which are supposed to make sure that the bank continues to invest in green projects into the future. However this was an afterthought and the green party quite rightly pointed out the stupidity of this decision.
Reducing incentives for electric cars
In the past you paid a fee in the first year depending on how clean your car was, ranging from free for electric cars to £505 for the dirtiest. This was changed to a standard annual fee of £140 years. This another bizarre idea, particularly as it happens at the same time, as cities throughout the UK are struggling to improve the air within the cities (and will require electric to complete the change). This is an odd decision, though it is likely to be a boost for the rich, which are more likely to be donors to the conservatives as they tend to buy bigger cars that are the most polluting. This seems to be counter productive and is likely to require more money in the future than will be saved in the current time. The government has set a date of 2040 as the time after which no petrol or diesel cars would be allowed, however without encouraging the take up of electric cars, this date is highly likely to have to be pushed back as there will not be enough electric cars in the world for the majority to be changed in the last few years.
Giving up on Zero emissions homes
There had been a plan to make all new houses zero emission by 2016. This would have added some value to new homes, but it is required to allow us to get anywhere near the cuts to energy that we need to make to halt dangerous climate change. The CEO of the UK green building council said that the change “It is short-sighted, unnecessary, retrograde and damaging to the house-building industry, which has invested heavily in delivering energy-efficient homes. Improving efficiency of houses and offices is necessary for the UK to hit its carbon reduction targets.