The subsidy declines for renewables in England

I’ve been watching the backlash against renewable energy subsidies in Europe the last few years as those nations face sovereign debt crises and high electricity costs. Aside from maybe Germany, the other nation where it’s become an even bigger political issue is England. Utility rates are high in England amid a struggling job market, something I learned first hand when I visited London last winter. (My Airbnb host had rented me his fashionable northwest London apartment at a pretty penny, but felt completely comfortable asking me not to use the heat too much and to be mindful not to leave the lights on. Otherwise he was great. I could only conclude that they’re really getting killed on their utility bills.)

The latest political manifestation of subsidy backlash in England surrounds David Cameron’s announcement that his Conservative party would end subsidies for onshore wind if it wins in next year’s election. Onshore wind has actually been the most successful form of renewable energy in cloudy England and an analysis shows that it can be had for 12-15 cents per kilowatt-hour, fairly competitive for renewable energy. Scrapping onshore wind subsidies will mean England will have to find other sources of renewable energy if it wants to meet its 15 percent renewables by 2020 mandate.

The latest global trends in cleantech investing figures show that Europe continues to slow as an end market for renewable energy investment with China, Japan and Africa/Middle East proving much more exciting venues for investment. Europe also has had much more ambitious renewable energy goals than any other continent. If there’s one silver lining it might just be that the price of renewable energy deployment keeps getting cheaper to the point that within 5-7 years, it’s going to be competitive with fossil fuels across broader markets.