Green Energy investors review

Investor confidence: that's the critical factor when you are asking the private sector to stump up hundreds of billions of pounds to build the UK a clean energy system fit for the 21st century. So David Cameron's impromptu pledge to "roll back some of the green regulations and charges that are putting up bills" on 23 October was unhelpful. But let's be kind and say it will perhaps help clear the air a little in the poisonous debate over our soaring energy bills, even if those "taxes" make up just 9% of bills.

However, what has followed is nothing less than chaos, illustrating starkly the deep and damaging divide within the government. On Wednesday, the prime minister and the responsible minister gave completely contradictory answers on what will be covered by the green levy review. Cameron told MPs at prime minister's questions:

Of course we want to see insulation programmes and of course we want to help people, particularly vulnerable households, to keep their bills down. But what we should be doing is looking at every subsidy and every levy and making sure it is value for money and making sure it is not in place for a moment longer than it is needed.

So that's clear, every levy is up for review. That includes the 4.5% of total bills that goes to social schemes to reduce bills for pensioners and improve energy efficiency in poorer households, and the 3% that supports renewable energy and the remainder which goes on other climate change policies.

Well, no. On the same day, a letter from Greg Barker, a Conservative MP and minister in the department of energy and climate change, to his Labour shadow minister, said:

As has already been stated publicly, the work of the review is not looking at investment incentives for renewables, the Renewables Obligation, Contracts for Difference and feed in tariffs, which are essential for the government's long term investment programme in the energy sector.

OK, those "essential" green energy subsidies are safe. At least Ed Davey, LibDem energy secretary and Barker's boss, agrees. A day earlier, on Tuesday, he told the RenewableUK conference:

The current review is not about changing investment incentives for renewables, such as the renewables obligation, contracts for difference or the feed-in tariffs scheme. These are essential for investor confidence in the renewables sector and our commitments to a low-carbon economy.

But hang on, no one appears to have told the third minister in Decc, Conservative Michael Fallon. A few days earlier, on 30 October, he told the select committee of MPs that scrutinise Decc:

I do not think we can start by taking any one of them completely off the table. We have to have a good hard look at each of them.

Oh dear. Fallon, as it happens, is echoing chancellor George Osborn's thoughts. I have tried to get a definitive answer as to what levies are being reviewed. No10 had no answer. A Conservative source could say only: "Further details will be announced at the time of the chancellor's Autumn statement" on 4 December.

Tom Greatrex, Labour's shadow energy minister, is merely stating the obvious when he says: "The messages from have been wildly inconsistent. They don't seem to be sure themselves about what exactly it is they are looking into."

A Bonfire by night

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Q&A

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What are the hot opportunities in green energy and electric vehicles for small investors?

i'm ready for my next little betting spree. what are your hot tips for the next big low carbon, ethical investments?

There are opportunities for small companies that are able to improve existing value chains by finding uses for waste products and byproducts of larger companies. Because the larger company pays for waste disposal, the input costs are very low or negative. As one example, poultry processors pay to dispose of tanker truckloads of guts daily. About 10% of the mass is lipid that can be used to make biodiesel. The remainder can be digested to produce enough methane to run the process. The most expensive part in energy terms is removing water. The money involved is "chicken feed" to a large …