The national Green Party leader says South Tyneside can be at the forefront of a renewable energy revolution – and has backed grass-roots campaigners to loosen Labour’s political grip on the borough.
Party supremo Natalie Bennett has called on the Government to help businesses to shape an eco-friendly future – claiming many firms have been left in limbo by an impending subsidy cut.
Ms Bennett spoke during a visit to award-winning South Shields renewable energy firm Advanced Renewable Power (ARP), which specialises in solar power installations but are now diversifying thanks to the shift in Government policy.
The Department of Energy and Climate change is set to slash the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) – a payment made to households or businesses generating their own electricity through renewable energy – by 87% in a bid to cut household energy bills.
Maria Pittiglio, finance director at ARP, admits uncertainty over when the reduction will be introduced has left them turning away solar power work and planning from ‘day to day’.
Miss Pittiglio said: “We are having to turn away work and are having to plan day by day.
“Thankfully we have diversified, so we have electricity contracting work, but our primary work has always been solar installations.
“We have been very busy and have being doing work for the North East Ambulance Service and Northumbria University.
Ms Bennett added: “With the subsidy cuts, the reduction to bills will be about 50p a month by 2021.
“That is set against thousands of jobs and businesses being put under threat.”
Ms Bennett added: “There is huge potential in South Tyneside - with its coastline - for tidal wave and wind energy.”
She believes green party members in the borough will have a greater say in the corridors of power in the future - and prevent the borough
She added: “We are looking to win our first council seat in South Tyneside and I think we have a real chance.
“People are tired of this borough being a one-party state.”