I’ve joked before that it would be just a matter of time before the Tories started taxing solar panels rather than subsidising them. Well, now its happening. To help pay for the ever increasing cost of brexit they are putting up business rates. And within this tax hike they’ve sneaked in a clause that withdraws certain exemptions to business rates meaning they will now apply to those selling electricity to the grid via solar feed in tariffs. And we’re not talking a minor increase here, a 6 to 8 fold increase in taxation is expected for some operators, effectively making some solar installations uneconomic.
This is not the first time they’ve tried to pull this trick, they tried it before prior to the referendum, but were forced to back down, when the media caught them at it. Oddly enough they blamed the EU on that occasion for forcing them to make this change, something they can’t do anymore (as I seem to recall pointing out prior to the referendum, governments often used “the EU” as the go to excuse for any policy they wanted to implement anyway, which they know will be unpopular, leaving the EU doesn’t mean they won’t implement such policies, they’ll just blame migrants, the poor, or the growing cost of brexit instead). But with brexit now dominating the headlines, Corbyn now effectively a Tory ally, they’ve been able to sneak it through without facing much opposition.
And note this applies even to public buildings, like state schools. Although private schools are exempted ( as in the places most minsters went too, taxes are for the little people to pay after all!). And since we’re talking about it, a business rates hike tends to hit small businesses harder than large corporations. So all that talk about helping the little guy at the last Tory conference was clearly BS. Yes brexit Britain is now going to tax state schools and solar panels. We’ve gone the full Monty Python already, and we’re not even out of the EU yet! I would joke about them bringing back in workhouses and the poor law, but I’d be afraid of that turning out to be true in a few months time.
Of course while Solar power, is being taxed, instead the government is offering tax breaks to shale gas drillers and effectively subsidising fossil fuel production. Noting that those subsidies go to the oil majors, anyone who fills up a car in the UK then gets hit with high petrol tax, which they blame (with no hint of irony) on the fact that fossil fuels are too cheap (perhaps if you stopped subsidising them, you won’t need to tax as aggressively).
And of course Hinkley C, the Tories little darling is going to receive about £37 billion in tax payer support along with a subsidy of about 68% of the cost of every kWh, which will be paid by UK electricity users. But even these absurd subsidies aren’t enough to make these projects viable. So having realised that cutting solar subsidies wasn’t going to do the job of eliminating the competition, they’re now trying to punish the renewables industry for its success. Like the mafia that they are, the Tories are now going around and beating up solar installers with a tire iron for daring to treat on the forbidden lawn that is the nuclear industry’s turf.
Similarly, cuts to energy efficiency measures has meant that the UK is now well behind, with some of the least energy efficient homes in Europe. One home will now need to be insulated every minute between now and 2050 just to keep pace with climate change targets.
I recall point out in prior posts that a major issue with the UK’s energy policy is that these constant reversals of policy risk impose a severe chilling effect. Basically nobody in their right mind should invest in energy infrastructure in the UK. If you invest in renewables, the Tories will try to drive you out of business. Nuclear is not without its risks, as I discussed before, its possible the Hinkley C subsidy system might not actually work. And while the Tory plan might be to shrug their shoulders when its pointed out that they’ve missed climate targets, I don’t think they’ll be allowed to get away with that indefinitely. Inevitably once the UK does start to take climate change seriously anyone in the fossil fuel industry can expect a backlash (what goes around comes around).
This is the whole reason why in Germany when the conservatives took over (about three election ago!) they retained the policies of the prior Green/left wing governments on energy. They may not have entirely agreed with them, but they understood the consequences if they implemented a dramatic change in policy. Better to have someone installed new energy infrastructure (even if perhaps its costing you a bit more than you’d like to pay), than nobody installing anything because they’re not entirely sure what’s going to happen four years down the line.
And certainly anyone who even remotely cares about the environment, who believes that post-brexit we’d be okay, the Tories are all hug polar bears now. No leaving the EU (which means putting euro skeptic climate change deniers in charge) means the end of any commitment towards environmental protection. Equally those on the left need to accept that voting to leave the EU will mean a massive assault on workers rights and pay, on small business and in general it will be used to reverse decades of social progress (So if you voted for Corbyn as labour party leader, that is in effect what you just voted for as well, as Stephen Hawking pointed out the other day).