Politically Speaking - Evening Post Column
The government's back-tracking on green energy will lead to large-scale job losses in my constituency, and right across South-West Wales
The past year has certainly proved to be a tumultuous one for the Labour Party - our defeat in the General Election, Ed Milliband’s resignation and then Jeremy Corbyn’s meteoric rise to the leadership have certainly made for interesting times.
The Labour Party under Jeremy's leadership will of course need some time to re-think, re-build and re-launch, but in the meantime our top priority is to become a strong and effective opposition.
And one area where we must hold this government firmly to account is around its ever-weakening commitment to green energy. The Tories recently announced, out of the blue, that they will be ending a range of support measures for green energy industries such as solar and bio-mass, and this back-sliding is already creating severe difficulties for green businesses in my Constituency. For example, the owner of a local solar company recently came to see me to express her concerns. She told me:
“As the owner of a local Solar company based in Port Talbot, I am shocked and dismayed at how the government are effectively 'killing off' the Solar industry with a dramatic subsidy cut of 87%. Over the years from humble beginnings we have worked hard to build up a company which has become a market leader not only in Wales but is now also getting recognition nationally. We employ around 100 local people who benefit from a skilled, well paid role.”
“Solar has always up until now been a great way for customers to save and make money whilst also helping the environment at the same time, however after January at the current figures the government are suggesting the average household will be £500 out of pocket over 20 years which means it is not an attractive option. With no customers there is no business.
With cuts this high it seems impossible that we will be able to carry on operating the way we do now. This puts many jobs at risk which will affect many families in the area. It is heartbreaking when we have put our heart and soul into building a business with so many talented people, for it to effectively disappear in the new year.”
The Government’s short-sighted cuts to subsidies could open the door to a return to fossil-fuel reliance, and to the ‘dash-for-gas’ of fracking. And the subsidy cuts will not only be bad for our environment, they will also be bad for our economy, leading to the loss of hundreds of jobs across the Swansea Bay region.
The fact is that this Tory U-turn is a false economy, as the immediate savings will be far outweighed by the costs of job losses further down the line.
Green energy is a high growth potential industry, and a real engine for job creation. To abandon it now would be a huge mistake.