23 November 2016

UK gives £230m to clean transport, but remains in 'slow lane'

 The UK gave £230 million ($290 million) to accelerate the roll-out of clean transport in its Autumn budget statement, but was accused of "pootling along in the slow lane" when it comes to low-carbon energy transition.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond gave an £80 million handout to support electric vehicle charging infrastructure and £150 million for the development of low emission buses and taxis.

Jupiter's Charlie Thomas, manager of the Jupiter Ecology Fund, said: "Of the £390 million the Chancellor has allocated to 'future transport', around a fifth will be directed to electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and we see this as an important step forward for this important, but often overlooked, aspect of the dynamic electric vehicles market.

"As we see EV prices fall with technology advancement, charging is a frequently cited hurdle, and incentives to alleviate this could certainly help to open up the market growth."

He added that it built on "a wave of announcements from the major automotive players" around building electric vehicles.

The Chancellor said that the £18 a tonne levy on fossil fuels would remain until 2020, and he would continue to consider it future.

But there was disappointment that the Chancellor did not announce further measures to boost the UK's low-carbon economy.

A decision on the future of the levy control framework — a cap on the amount to be spent supporting renewables was delayed, as was news on reforms to the subsidy regime.

The Solar Trade Association (STA) said the Chancellor "reconfirmed his Government's commitment to tax breaks for oil and gas firms" but, "there was no mention of removing the proposed business rates increase for commercial solar installations".

STA CEO Paul Barwell said: "We welcome the additional funding for infrastructure & electric vehicles - a "smart" energy system will deliver enormous savings to business and consumers. It is also good news that there is no cut to the Carbon Price support, and we look forward to working with the Government over their emissions reduction plan and the future of the Levy Control Framework.

"However, proposed business rate rises risk undermining an industry that is already adjusting to a low-support framework, and will make many systems uneconomical."

And although there was a promise to build more housing, there was no mention of building to the high standards in energy efficiency.

Friends of the Earth senior campaigner Liz Hutchins said: "The Chancellor is pootling along in the slow lane, when the UK needs to be on the fast track to a low-carbon economy.

"With Donald Trump appointing climate deniers and oil lobbyists to his transition team, this is a huge missed opportunity for the UK to show the global leadership and urgency needed to protect our planet."

Leonie Greene, STA's head of external affairs, said: "Only the week after the UK ratified the Paris Agreement, the Chancellor made no mention of climate change. It is deeply frustrating at this point in time that we have to battle against a tax regime that is rewarding investors in fossil fuels over solar energy."