UK Politics

Nick Clegg: No coalition rift over energy policy

Nick Clegg
Image caption The UK will not be "left behind" in the face of a global energy revolution, Mr Clegg insists

Nick Clegg has rejected claims of a rift in government over energy policy, saying all ministers are "unreservedly committed" to a low-carbon economy.

The Treasury and the Department of Energy have reportedly clashed over issues like wind turbine subsidies.

The deputy prime minister said there had been discussions about the "balance and sequencing" of policy.

But he told a summit in London no minister "wanted to depart" from targets to cut UK carbon emissions.

Chancellor George Osborne has said the UK will meet its carbon reduction targets but not go any further or faster than other countries, to avoid putting itself at a competitive disadvantage.

Conservative backbenchers have questioned the level of government support for renewable energy and energy efficiency reforms - known as the "green deal" - arguing that anything which increases costs for businesses and families should be resisted.

'Leading from front'

Last month's announcement of a 10% cut in government support for onshore wind projects was preceded by reports of a stand-off between the Treasury and the Department for Energy and Climate Change - led by Lib Dem Ed Davey - over the issue.

The Treasury was said to be urging a much larger 25% reduction in subsidies.

Addressing an energy conference in London - the latest in a series of business summits coinciding with the Olympics - Mr Clegg claimed the UK was "leading from the front" on low-carbon technology.

"The coalition is sometimes presented in the press as if it is riddled with debate and division with regard to greening the economy," he said.

"That isn't the case. Yes, there will be internal discussions and debates on the balance and sequencing of different policies - that's the nature of any government - and energy policies will evolve over time as costs come down.

"The entire government is working within the parameters of the carbon budget, which sets the pace for decarbonising our economy, and there is no-one in government who wants to depart from that."

Carbon targets

The UK is committed to lowering its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34% by 2020 - compared with 1990 levels - and by 80% by 2050.

The deputy prime minister said the UK could build on its position as the six-largest market in low-carbon products and environmental services.

He added: "This coalition is unreservedly committed to helping our low-carbon sector thrive - no ifs, no buts. And we want to support the shift by traditional industry to cleaner sources of energy - while of course recognising the pressures they face."

The government said on Monday it was providing £100m to two specialist fund managers to help stimulate domestic and foreign investment in non-domestic energy efficiency projects.

The initiative came as recycling firm Closed Loop Recycling announced a £12m expansion plan, doubling the capacity of its Dagenham plant, and solar energy business Grupotec said it would double its Surrey-based workforce.

Taking office in 2010, Mr Cameron pledged to lead the "greenest government ever" but environmental campaigners say that promise is so far proving hollow.

Labour have said recent infighting between the Conservatives and Lib Dems over wind subsidies, coming on top of a cut in support for solar panel installations, have damaged investor confidence.

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