POLITICS

Renewable Energy Sector 'Undermined' By George Osborne As Flagship Company Closes

10/07/2015 15:33 BST | Updated 10/07/2015 15:59 BST
AFP via Getty Images
Westmill Wind Farm Co-op, the first onshore wind farm to be built in the south-east of England is pictured in Watchfield near Swindon, on December 5, 2008. The wind farm produces enough green electricity to power more than 2,500 homes whilst saving the emissions of carbon dioxide. AFP PHOTO/Adrian Dennis (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

George Osborne has put thousands of jobs at risk due to the uncertainty he has created in the renewable energy sector, Labour claimed today.

Shadow Energy Sector Caroline Flint hit out at the Chancellor after one of the UK’s flagship turbine manufacturers announced it was closing its factory.

Mabey Bridge Renewables, based in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, revealed last year it was looking to sell the business but revealed this week no deal has been struck.

Company chairman Juliette Stacey blamed “the uncertainty of market conditions” as a major reason for no sale taking place.

Government subsidies for the onshore wind sector will now end in March 2016 - not 2017 as previously announced - and renewable energy is no longer exempt from the climate change levy.

Ms Flint told The Huffington Post UK: “It has only taken this Tory Government a few months to undermine investor confidence across the renewable sector and put thousands of jobs at risk.

“Onshore wind and its supply chain is worth £1.7billion to the UK economy and high-skill high-wage manufacturing jobs are exactly what this country badly needs.

"In the run up to the Paris climate conference this year the Government should walk the walk as well as talk the talk by backing jobs and investment in renewable industries."

Mabey Bridge Renewables launched in 2011, and manufactures the towers for onshore wind turbines.

The company announced this week it was planning to close its renewable division, which employs 180 people.

Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, a company spokesman said: "There was a number of factors [why the business did not sell]. There was an aggressive marketing campaign that went out to 50 different buyers. Some on these consultations were developing and we were in exclusive discussions with one party over the past few months, but sadly we haven’t been able to conclude a deal.

"The decision to end the subsidy for onshore wind firms a year early is undoubtedly contributing to that and had an impact on negotiations."

When asked if there was a lack of Government support for the onshore wind energy market, the spokesman replied: "It’s not their favourite option, let’s say."

Robert Norris, Head of Communications for RenewableUK, described Mabey Bridge Renewables as a “flagship” company in the sector and questioned the Chancellor’s business nous by taking subsidies away from such organisations.

He said: “He’s sending a signal that he can do anything, at any time, to the energy industry. It doesn’t make it look like a very stable environment to invest.”

There are currently 5,061 onshore wind turbines in the UK, generating 5.6% of the country’s electricity requirement – enough to power 5.5million homes for a year.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett argued it was time the Government “woke up” to the need for investment in the renewable energy sector.

She said: “The government’s vicious attack on the renewables industry is not only hindering Britain’s ability to meet its crucial climate change targets, but is helping to push companies like Mabey Bridge into financial difficulty and is costing jobs.

“The announcement in this week’s Budget that the industry is to be forced to pay the climate change levy, and the plans to end subsidies for onshore wind a year early, are unsurprisingly creating huge uncertainties in the sector.

“It is bizarre that the business-loving Tories are attacking a vital industry that creates thousands of jobs and secures our energy needs for the future.”

A Department for Energy and Climate Change spokesperson said: “This is disappointing news for the Mabey Bridge workforce and the local community, but commercial decisions are a matter for the company.

“Government support is designed to help industries and technologies stand on their own two feet rather than not encourage reliance on subsidies so that we can combat climate change in the most cost-effective way for bill payers.”