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Labour sides with the energy industry and Conservatives side with the energy consumer in hopeful shift of policy

By Matthew Barrett
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BARKER-GREG-PORTRAITOn Monday, Minister of State for Climate Change, Greg Barker announced that the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) level for solar installations would be reduced as a result of soaring take-up of FITs. FITs are subsidies for small-scale renewable electricity generation, paid for by ordinary households through their energy bills. The government has allocated an £867 million budget for FITs over the next four years. Without this limit, the cost of FITs to consumers would soar. 

Greg Barker has written to Labour's Caroline Flint, the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy, after she opposed the new measures to protect consumers from escalating subsidies for solar power.

Speaking in the House, Caroline Flint described the government's plan as "yet another example of a government which is out of touch", she called the move one that "threatens to strangle at birth the solar industry", and "a kick in the teeth for all those families who want to do the right thing by investing in solar". 

In his letter (pdf), the Minister writes:

"Through your kneejerk opposition to our changes, you are effectively calling on the government to substantially increase energy bills. Your comments place you on the side of the solar power lobby and against hard-pressed families struggling to pay their bills. I am afraid they starkly expose the cynicism of the position that Labour has taken on energy prices."

Miliband Ed HouseBut not only has Caroline Flint opposed a sensible move to limit solar-subsidising, Labour has opposed such moves in the past. Earlier this year, the government reduced FIT payments for large-scale solar installations. Ed Miliband argued against the move, despite the fact the change will save households £3.5billion in energy bill payments in the years up to and including 2020. 

There is a large thread of hypocrisy to be found in Labour's energy ideas. Despite wanting to retain a costly subsidy for a fringe interest, Ed Miliband pretends to want to reduce fuel bills. Writing for the Mirror last month, Miliband said:

"Ministers in suits around a warm table will do nothing to persuade people that Mr Cameron and this Tory-led government understand the realities of families struggling to pay the bills"

Worse than this, Miliband was the Secretary of State with responsibility for these issues for two years - yet he did nothing about the rising fuel costs, and dominance enjoyed by some energy companies that he now complains about. This movement on energy policy is perhaps the first tangible result of George Osborne's new scepticism about climate change.

> Yesterday on TalkingPoints we looked at the work of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, one of Britain's most important think-tanks, because of its work to critically examine the climate change-inspired energy policies of the government.