British renewables investment difficult due to policy changes - L&G

LONDON (Reuters) - Investing in renewable energy in Britain has become difficult because changes in government policy have created too much uncertainty for investors, the chief executive of insurance firm Legal & General Group LGEN.L said on Monday.

The logo of Legal & General insurance company is seen at their office in central London March 17, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

“We have invested in onshore wind and solar and we are looking at further investments. But in the last 15 years, Britain has had too many energy ministers and too many changes in policy so we are not as successful in energy as we have been in pensions,” Nigel Wilson told Reuters in an interview.

Legal & General has 746 billion pounds in assets under management and has a target of spending 15 billion pounds on UK infrastructure, including housing, transport and clean energy. As part of that programme, it has invested 6.3 billion pounds to date.

For renewable energy, Legal & General committed to fund up to 47.5 percent of a 250 million euro (200 million pounds) onshore wind fund at the end of last year.

The fund aims to build up to 270 megawatts in onshore wind capacity, enough to generate power up to 170,000 homes across Britain and Ireland.

However, the fund is still in development because of uncertainties around UK energy policy, Wilson said on the sidelines of a climate change investment event hosted by Newton Investment Management.

Britain aims to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 to 80 percent below 1990 levels but also needs to invest about 100 billion pounds to replace ageing nuclear and coal plants.

Over the past year, the British government has changed many energy policies to rein in costs, including scrapping support for onshore wind farms and reducing subsidies for other renewable energy technologies.

However, investors and lawmakers have warned that in the long term, costs will rise because energy projects such as gas-fired power plants, nuclear plants and wind farms can take years to build and have high up-front costs.

For example, the cost of EDF's EDF.PA proposed 18 billion pound Hinkley Point C nuclear power project in southwest England has escalated since it was first announced in 2013 and a final investment decision repeatedly delayed as EDF struggled to find partners and financing.

“We think Hinkley Point C is a total waste of money. The noise around Hinkley creates confusion in the marketplace. (The government) should take it off the table and move to more sensible solutions,” Wilson said.

Last month, Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokeswoman said the government continued to fully support the Hinkley Point C project.

Editing by Jeremy Gaunt