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The stealthy rise of renewables

Britain has created a regressive stealth tax to fund the growth of the renewable energy sector. It's unfair, expensive and crude—but it works. What's needed though is for this subsidy to be more wisely directed—away from renewables towards zero carbon power

By Richard Barry   December 2008

Colbert, financial controller to Louis XIV, famously remarked that “the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.” The Colbert prize is an occasional award, going to the government department that runs the tax scheme with the highest feather-to-hissing ratio.

The department of energy and climate change (DECC) wins the 2008 Colbert prize for its clever system of renewable obligation certificates (ROCs). Last year it used ROCs to pluck £470m from the public, and did it with no hissing at all. Furthermore—a point…

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