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Impact of the general election on the waste and renewables sector

While long-term clarity on policy is needed to boost investor confidence and enable new infrastructure to be developed in the waste and renewables sectors, the Conservative manifesto (like that of the other main parties) lacked any clear specific waste policy and was lukewarm in its support for renewables.

In relation to renewables, they have offered little commitment to clear policies beyond pledging ‘start-up funding for promising new renewable technologies and research’. They have saved particular criticism for onshore wind, pledging to let local people have the final say on windfarm planning applications and public subsidies; there was no mention of renewable heat; and they have ruled out the targets for future electricity decarbonisation which would provide the certainty necessary to attract investment. Meanwhile they promise significant expansion into new nuclear and gas while planning to develop the Swansea tidal lagoon and support the development of the shale gas industry.

In relation to the waste sector, while the new Government will face tough challenges to achieve the UK’s 2020 recycling targets, the Conservatives are to further cut public spending affecting waste collections, and the promised EU referendum will raise questions for the waste industry given the EU’s influence on UK waste policy. The industry will have to wait and see what will be the new Government’s policies on issues such as standardised collection infrastructure across the UK; how to tackle the flat-lining of recycling rates in England; and the role energy from waste (EfW) has to play in a circular economy.

Meanwhile the anaerobic digestion (AD) industry has called for decisions on the Feed-in Tariff, the Renewable Heat Incentive and food waste collections that give certainty to developers and investors. Its wishes include re-setting Feed-in Tariffs at a viable level for all scales; investment in the distribution network to assist with grid connections; setting an RHI budget for 2016-2020 which allows the continued growth for biomethane; and realising the potential benefits of separate food waste collections. The AD sector may be encouraged by the Conservatives’ support for the farming industry, which could be positive for on-farm anaerobic digestion; the forthcoming Circular Economy Package from the European Commission which may include food waste collections; and the UN Climate Change conference in Paris later this year which it is hoped will provide a good indication of longer term policy.

Amber Rudd is the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change at DECC and is considered to be broadly supportive of the need to tackle climate change.  However she has been accused of undermining market confidence in the solar sector following her comments supporting the then Government’s decision to remove large-scale solar farms from the Renewables Obligation It is noted that the Government’s targets for solar capacity to be achieved by 2020 had been slashed from 22 GW to 12 GW despite her remarks talking about an ‘expanded’ ambition for solar.