I sometimes wonder what planet Mr Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer, lives on. He is surrounded by advisors, insulated from the real world. If he meets industrialists or business people, they will be the people who run massive conglomerates, who have their own agenda. He went to Lorreto School, nothing wrong with that, but a small elite boarding school hardly is real world living, for most of us. If Mr Brown’s jibe about Tory economic policy being thought up on the playing fields of Eton has a kernel of truth, then how much truer is the fact that Labour economic policy is connected to the playing fields of Loretto.
On 30th December Mr Darling wrote in the Guardian newspaper that his government action meant that half a million “green jobs” would be created around the clean energy sector. He claims that by “addressing investment barriers” he has released “billions of pounds” and that green industries could support another half a million jobs over the next decade. This is pure fantasy.
The barriers to investment in clean green energy are those created by the mindset of the Government which constantly favours dirty fossil fuel energy over that of renewables, and for that mindset Mr Darling must take much of the blame.
I came across his article in the Guardian came when I was reading a report that I had commissioned as to whether it would be cost effective to establish a solar panel factory in the United Kingdom for the United Kingdom, jointly with ThermoSolar, our associated company. The report was undertaken by a leading firm of accountants.
I knew that at a particular level it would be cost effective to manufacture in the United Kingdom, as an additional facility to our factory at Ziar in Slovakia but I did not know at what level, so i commissioned the study to advise the level at which Genersys’s United Kingdom business could support its own factory.
We looked at two areas for the factory, South Wales and the North East, where there are good incentives. The report advised that we would need to sell at least ten times as many solar panels as we now sell in the United Kingdom, just for the factory to break even.
Such a factory would only provide at the most fifty jobs, but the installation jobs that would be provided by people installing ten times as many Genersys panels would be well over a thousand jobs. Genersys is probably the largest supplier of thermal solar panels in the United Kingdom, so increasing its business tenfold is not going happen under the present “support” that the Government alleges it provides for clean green industries.
Solar thermal installation is by far the most popular microgeneration of energy system in the United Kingdom (as well as in the rest of the world) so it makes you wonder where Mr Darling’s green jobs will come from, if solar thermal is not encouraged or incentivised.
Certainly new jobs will not come from the wind turbine industry; Vesta had to close its factory in the Isle of Wight recently, simply because there was insufficient United Kingdom demand. Today the United Kingdom buys its turbines from abroad (mainly Denmark) with other turbine kit coming from Germany and the USA.
Mr Darling seems to live in a fantasy world. His original Phase 2 Low Carbon Building Programme (when Mr Darling was at the Department of Trade) caused great damage to the genuine solar thermal industry in this country, and the industry has not yet recovered from the damage done.
Apparently devising a new feed in tariff for solar thermal will have to wait for another eighteen months even though the design of such a tariff should be simplicity itself. These tariffs were permitted by the Energy Act which received the Royal Assent on 13th November 2008.
The Government for some inexplicable reason decided that it was only smart enough to design one feed in tariff at a time, so it concentrated on designing a feed in tariff for electricity, rather than for renewable heat. Even then it was not smart enough to design a feed in tariff promptly and the people concerned with generating clean electricity are still waiting, fifteen months later, to know what the feed in tariff will be.
You can read the governmental position on feed in tariffs at: