Clegg reveals his grand vision on renewable energy

Ben Russell,Political Correspondent
Thursday 21 August 2008 00:00
Clegg: 'Renewable energy is no longer a pipe dream'
Clegg: 'Renewable energy is no longer a pipe dream'

Nick Clegg will today unveil plans to make Britain an exporter of green energy by 2050, as he called for a programme "on the scale of the Apollo moon landings" to transform Britain's dependence on foreign oil, gas and coal supplies.

In an interview with The Independent, the Liberal Democrat leader demanded the scrapping of new nuclear and coal-fired power stations, instead proposing the establishment of a renewables delivery authority to oversee a massive expansion of wind, solar and wave energy, funded by guaranteed premium prices for green energy.

He said: "Renewable energy is no longer a pipe dream. It is realistic and achievable. All it requires is the leadership and vision that has been lacking under years of tired Labour thinking.

"That's why I will set out Liberal Democrat proposals to become energy independent by 2050. This will require the kind of ambition and political will that succeeded in putting man on the Moon."

During a visit to a wind farm in the North Sea Mr Clegg will lay out theoretical plans for all new homes to be built to world-leading standards of insulation, and for energy companies to be forced to spend £500m a year insulating the existing housing stock and installing energy-saving smart meters that measure how much power individual appliances use.

He will also outline the proposals for new green and wealth taxes to fund a 4p cut in the basic rate of income tax. It is the start of an autumn offensive to lay out the Liberal Democrats' tax-cutting credentials. Mr Clegg said he would outline in the coming weeks the first of a series of savings aimed at cutting £20bn from government spending, aimed at fulfilling his ambition of reducing the tax burden still further.

"I hardly drive a car any more," said Mr Clegg. "I bought an electric moped which I think is the technology of the future. I got rid of the leader's car shortly after I got in."

Mr Clegg repeated his pledge to double the party's current 63 seats in two general elections, dismissing Labour under Gordon Brown as having "run out of road" and attacking the "arrogance" of David Cameron.

Mr Clegg insisted his party was the true home for progressive voters and said that Labour's decline made him hopeful of major urban gains at the next general election. He insisted that the party's average poll rating of 18 per cent was a better springboard than at the same point in the previous two electoral cycles.

"Something very big is going on, particularly in urban Britain," he said. "Out of the 30 British cities, we now lead 12. That has been going on for years. That is where the great battlegrounds will be between ourselves and Labour at the next general election. There are a lot of seats up for grabs in those areas."

Mr Clegg dismissed suggestions that the Conservative resurgence could cut his number of MPs down to 35. He said he would target a "handful" of Conservative seats and said he was "working extremely hard" to hold seats where the Tories are challengers.

"[The Conservatives] think they deserve the keys to No 10 without having the decency to tell the voters what they would do if they got there," he said. "They have started to talk down to [Britain], telling voters the vote's in the bag.

"Millions of voters will start asking hard-headed questions about where's the substance, where's the beef, where's the consistency behind all the photo opportunities." He added: "On every single major issue facing us we have called it right, called it earlier than the other two parties and been on the side of the British people."

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