Jacob Rees-Mogg has insisted he is not a “sceptic” of renewable energy and said he supports lifting a ban on onshore wind.
The Conservatives MP, who has previously criticised “climate alarmism”, said he was in fact in favour of net zero and that green energy had a role to play.
“I am not a ‘green energy sceptic’. I am in favour of intelligent net zero in which green energy will play the biggest role,” Mr Rees-Mogg wrote in an article in the Guardian newspaper published on Thursday.
He added: “Given the stakes, it’s important that the public debate on net zero and energy security is robust and lively, but I hope my commitment to making it a reality is clear.”
Burnishing his green credentials the Somerset MP said he supported lifting the effective moratorium on new onshore wind farms in England – a responsibility of his department.
In 2016 the government tightened planning rules that made most projects unviable, but chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and now Mr Rees-Mogg himself have signalled that the ban is set to come to an end.
The business secretary promised to “align onshore wind planning policy with other infrastructure to allow it to be deployed more easily in England”.
On solar, Mr Rees-Mogg also said his department was exploring options for to help households get financing to install their own solar panels on their homes.
It comes after his climate minister Graham Stuart on Wednesday said more ground-mounted solar panels were needed to meet the government’s renewable energy targets.
Yet the messages coming from Mr Rees-Mogg’s department contrast with those from Defra and Downing Street.
Liz Truss’s spokesperson on Monday confirmed that the prime minister wanted to push ahead with a ban on solar panels on farmland, which she had suggested during the leadership contest.
The proposal was criticised by environmental groups and renewable industry groups, who pointed out the policy appeared to contrast with the government’s stated mission of delivering “growth”.
Liberal Democrat climate change spokesperson Wera Hobhouse welcomed Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments, telling The Independent:
“It’s nice to see Jacob Rees-Mogg make a screeching U-turn on renewable energy.
“Renewables are the cheapest and most popular form of energy and vital to our energy security and keeping bills low, it’s maddening that it has taken the energy secretary this long to realise.
“Now we need to see action including admitting that fracking will do nothing to bring down our energy bills and energy efficiency schemes to keep people’s bills low into the future.”