Harwich: MP hits back in green jobs row

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AN MP has refuted claims that his stance on carbon targets is threatening the creation of green jobs in his constituency.

The Harwich Peninsula Friends of the Earth group wants its local MP, Bernard Jenkin, to support a proposed amendment to the forthcoming Energy Bill that would require the Government to introduce a decarbonisation target for power companies by April next year.

Currently, as the bill stands, there is no onus on the Government to think about the targets until 2016.

Green campaigners say that without definitive carbon targets, energy companies are unlikely to back renewable energy projects of the type Mr Jenkin has previously supported in public.

But Mr Jenkin has said carbon targets are not crucial in driving investment in renewable energy.

He is well known for his support of a project called Energising Harwich, which is focused on developing skills and businesses in order to grasp the opportunities offered by the burgeoning wind farm sector off the Essex and Suffolk coast.

He recently led a parliamentary debate on the scheme, which has secured a £875,000 grant to train Harwich’s workforce.

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But coordinator of Harwich Peninsular Friends of the Earth, Paul Preece, is concerned money will be wasted if renewable energy companies are not encouraged to invest in Harwich.

He said: “Deferring any decision on carbon targets to 2016 and beyond when we may have a new Government is just short sighted. The evidence we need is available now. What could happen is we will have trained people but there will be no employers to take them on because the companies won’t be there.

“In my view, the people will be given an empty promise. Its important that local jobs are created and the local economy benefits. Not train them and then for the workforce to go elsewhere or worse people come here to train and then go away.”

But Mr Jenkin has countered that investment in green energy is determined not by carbon targets but by policies on renewable obligation certificates which oblige energy companies to produce a proportion of their energy from renewable sources.

He said: “The new Energy Bill will put a fair price on carbon, providing a stronger incentive to invest in low carbon generation now.

“It is right to fix the target in 2016 in the context of the economy as a whole to which decarbonisation of the sector is inextricably linked. “These amendments which would try to fix this now are not sensible. ‘Green jobs’ sounds like a very attractive objective, but if our electricity, which is already far more expensive than other countries, continues to become more and more expensive, more and more jobs will be lost to other, low energy cost countries like the United States, which is dramatically increasing electricity generation from shale gas and France, which generates 80 per cent of their electricity from nuclear plants.”