Cameron Reboots Greenest-Government Pledge to Lure Siemens

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron renewed a vow that the government he leads will be the nation’s "greenest ever" as he seeks to lure investment from renewables companies including Siemens AG and Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica SA.

Energy laws being debated in Parliament will give investors the long-term clarity needed to plow money into Britain, Cameron told industry executives today at the Royal Society in London. That will help the U.K. secure a share of jobs and growth in "a global low carbon sector set to be worth $4 trillion by 2015."

Cameron came to power in May 2010 pledging the government, a coalition of his Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, would be the greenest in British history. The prime minister has since been criticized by environmental campaign groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth for failing in that mission by pursuing gas and rowing back support for onshore wind power.

"We can go to international investors and say ‘If you invest in offshore wind, when you’ve built your turbine, at the end of 2017, I can’t just tell you what you’ll earn for one year or two years, I can tell you what you’ll earn for 20 years,’" Cameron said. "Britain can get out there in the international market and talk to investors and talk to the big companies --the Siemens and the Dows and the Gamesas and others, and say ‘You have got absolute certainty investing in this market.’"

‘Extremely Reckless’

The Energy Bill’s introduction to parliament was preceded by a struggle between Energy Secretary Ed Davey, who wanted to set a goal to cut most carbon emissions from the power industry by 2030, and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who opposed the target and has pushed for gas-fired generation as a cheaper alternative to low-carbon renewable energy.

"Warm words are not enough: the prime minister must now rein in his chancellor and the fossil-fueled policies that are driving green investment away," Friends of the Earth Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said today in an e-mailed statement. "A decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill could be the key to unlocking the U.K.’s huge renewable energy potential by giving business the confidence to invest."

Friends of the Earth in December called the U.K. gas policy "extremely reckless" and said Cameron’s "stewardship of the environment has faded." Fellow environmental organisation WWF last month criticized the government, saying it didn’t offer any new policies on renewables or new leadership on climate change.

Schwarzenegger, Clinton

The right policies supporting a low-carbon economy could add 20 billion pounds to gross domestic product, Rhian Kelly, the Confederation of British Industry’s director of business environment policy, said today in an e-mailed statement.

"When I became prime minister I said I wanted Britain to have the greenest government ever, and I’m as committed to that today as I was then," Cameron said. "I want to go further."

He spoke at what the government described as an "energy efficiency mission launch," including a video message from former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a written one from former U.S. President Bill Clinton emphasizing the need to improve energy efficiency and supporting the U.K.’s efforts.

The government last week started its Green Deal program, aiming to boost insulation in the nation’s 26.9 million homes, improve their energy efficiency and lower household fuel bills.

The Energy Department says the program will more than double insulation industry jobs to 60,000 by 2015. The Sun newspaper said last week that just one person signed up on the program’s first day, and they still had two weeks to withdraw.

The department isn’t counting applicants, a spokesman said. The Green Deal website received 42,000 visits on its first day and 24 companies have been authorized as providers, he said.

"This is a program we’re going to build over the months and years ahead," Cameron said. "It’s very important with these big new programs to get the balance right. If you go off with an enormous advertising bang, you won’t have the immediate capacity to meet demand."