Delays by the official energy regulator in switching on new power supplies to the National Grid are putting renewable energy investors off long-term commitment to the sector.
"Ofgem is hideous, awful, ghastly," said Richard Mathias, chief executive, Belvedere Energy Investments, based in Liverpool. "To the point where I've been to Ofgem's offices just by the side of Parliament and sat with the renewables officials and said 'what's your end game here? Why are you making this so difficult? You've asked us to come in. You've asked the private sector to come and help you to hit your targets by 2020 and you do everything in your physical power to stop us from actually switching these things on and from getting what we rightly deserve.' We've got four cases in dispute at the moment, which probably are going to go to litigation with Ofgem now."
Mathias said the crux was the tariff change date when one supplier takes over from another. The grid cannot act fast enough to meet the switchover because of a backlog of applications.
"So, they're having to put back dates over that period and then they're saying 'well you weren't in in that period, you're actually in the next period.' It absolutely screws your model.
"They say they're sorry if you think it's adversarial but honestly they don't want to know.
"It's to the point where there's easier investments to make away from the sector completely."
Les Bellmon, senior regeneration consultant, Eldonian Group, agreed, saying that switching the energy on at large house projects he advises on takes longer than going through planning, public inquiry or any other aspect of the regulatory programme.
The renewable energy market is growing, driven by dwindling natural resources and rising energy prices, but the policy, legislation and taxes are so volatile it is difficult to predict where the industry will be in five years' time, said Christine Darbyshire, senior environment development manager at Liverpool City Council.
The renewable energy sector would be best served by local public-private collectives of interested companies and councils forming which would support each other through mutual action and shared strategies, Steve Pimlott, Arup, who advocated devolved local ownership of power supply.
Hill Dickinson and Place North West co-hosted the roundtable debate at Liverpool LEP's office in Princes Dock from where these comments were taken. Among the attendees at the event were Chris Acton, lead renewable consultant, Carbon Consultancy Company; Les Bellmon, senior regeneration consultant, Eldonian Group; Christine Darbyshire, senior environment development manager, Liverpool City Council; Mark Knowles, head of low carbon, Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership; Richard Mathias, chief executive, Belvedere Energy Investments; Alex McCann, partner, Hill Dickinson; Steve Pimlott, senior consultant, Arup; Alan Pugh, partner, Hill Dickinson; Guy Shorrock, building surveyor and energy assessor, Aldrock Chartered Building Surveyors & Energy Assessors; Peter Sutton, head of operations, DONG Energy Power (UK); David Williams, business development manager, Cammell Laird Shiprepairers & Shipbuilders; Paul Unger, editor, Place North West.