On the 19th October it was reported, in not so many words, that Britain has a renewable energy problem. Chief environmental scientist to the UN Professor Jacquie McGlade explicitly criticised the UK government for cutting subsidies for the development of renewable energy sources whilst simultaneously giving tax breaks to large oil and gas companies. Amongst other casualties of this policy are the three solar firms that have been forced to close due to cuts, resulting in a thousand job losses. Whilst the government has said that it wants to build renewables without subsidies, the truth of the matter is that without state financial back up, the opportunity to build more renewables has been drastically curtailed. What we can see is that renewable energy and fossil fuel energy are being financially pitted against one another and that, ultimately, fossil fuel companies are being given preferential treatment.
In the case of the UK’s energy programme, development is too widely connected with free markets and a lack of state input. This government, by pandering to large fossil fuel organizations with tax cuts and letting energy prices go unregulated (a policy first pioneered by Margaret Thatcher in 1986) have demonstrated that unchecked production of energy using fossil fuels- for both financial and quasi-political gain- is more of a priority. Embarrassingly, the UK is the only country in the G7 to continue offering subsidies to fossil fuel companies. But this is a trend that can be seen across other of the world’s most powerful countries: the G20 have, in total, give $452 billion dollars worth of subsidies to fossil fuel providers every year, expanding the profits of the people at the top of those companies and heaping damage onto the environment. There seems to be a clear-cut correlation between power, wealth and the perpetuation of fossil fuel production. Green energy, with its emphasis on providing for the needs of people and the planet and without looking to garner enormous profits does not come from the same school of political and ideological discourse. As long as governments unashamedly seek to protect the wealth of powerful corporations and individuals, it is highly likely that the renewable sector is going to continue to suffer.
Elizabeth Harper is a writer and critic, currently working in fashion.