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Government failing to support green innovators – MPs

The government is failing to support UK businesses developing innovative low carbon technologies, the cross-party Energy and Climate Change Committee has warned.

In its latest report – Energy and Climate Change - Second Report – the committee of MPs say there is a “mismatch” between the resources allocated by the government to support companies and its level of ambition in this complex policy area.

Following up on a 2010 National Audit Office report that had been critical of the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) record in supporting green firms, the committee found that not enough progress has been made by the government to support the sector since then.

Tim Yeo, chair of the Energy & Climate Change Select Committee, said: “We were surprised and disappointed to hear businesses and academic partners, among others, express continual frustration at the lack of consultation surrounding the government’s new low carbon strategy.

“These innovators could hold the key to getting the UK over the line on our carbon emissions targets, but it’s going to be much harder for them to do that without better co-ordination to get us all pulling in the same direction and making better use of limited public funds.”

The government's main tool for this policy is the public-private body, the Low Carbon Innovation Co-ordination Group (LCICG). However, the Committee stated that LCICG's governance is muddled, with an unhelpful mix of core and associate members and inadequate transparency on decision-making and information sharing.

DECC has also admitted that a lack of staff resource has prevented it from engaging fully on European issues that are of direct relevance to UK innovators. These issues include the ability to shape multi-billion euro funding programmes, help UK innovators access EU funding, and help shape EU standards on low carbon products such as energy efficiency devices and heat pumps.

Yeo said: “It is unsatisfactory that four years after the NAO criticised DECC’s support for businesses developing innovative sustainable technologies, the government still hasn’t tackled the poor communication and coordination between its low carbon innovation group and businesses and broader innovation partners.”

It has been recommended that greater ministerial engagement with the LCICG and a better resourced secretariat is needed “given the importance of achieving the UK's climate change targets”.

However, a DECC spokeswoman said: “We are now rated one of the best places to invest in renewables, as well as a world-leading centre in advanced offshore wind and carbon capture and storage technologies.

“We have improved our coordination with universities, industry and other public sector funders and we will continue to build on effective collaborations and target our funding to maximum effect.”

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