A Conservative-led council has been accused of copying Rishi Sunak’s Government in delaying action to tackle climate change by “watering down” a motion calling for the authority to pressure decision-makers over a 13-year delay facing many renewable energy schemes across England’s largest county.

Bizarre scenes unfolded at County Hall after Conservative members used their slim majority in the council chamber to amend a notice of motion by Liberal Democrat members to press the government, its regulator and the firms responsible for the grid reveal their action plans to resolve the issue.

The meeting heard such was the severity of the lack of electricity grid connections in many parts of North Yorkshire that the majority of the area would not get “any decent sized capacity” for renewable energy schemes until 2036.

Councillors heard businesses were “queuing up wanting to go green”, but were being stymied by Northern Powergrid, while North Yorkshire taxpayers were “down £100,000” because a council had been unable to connect solar panels on a swimming pool roof for 18 months.

The motion called for the council to request further information, action plans and a roadmap for delivery to increase electricity grid generation and import capacity across North Yorkshire from Northern Power Grid, National Grid and the regulator Ofgem.

It also called for the authority to write to the government to register “our serious concerns on the issue and request information on government support for immediate action”.

However, Tory members approved changes to the motion, removing any reference to the government or Ofgem and instead of pressing the firms for action plans, invited National Grid managers to attend one of the council meeting to talk about how their “increased investment” would benefit North Yorkshire.

The amendment called for collaborative working with the firms to achieve “climate change goals in a reasonable and realistic manner”.

Opposition members said the Conservative administration’s action was similar to that of the government in delaying action.

Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Mason then urged members “to reject my own motion”, as “it has been hijacked and watered down”.

He told the meeting the authority had just approved an economic development plan with renewable energy at its heart and grid capacity and connections were needed for the plan.

“If that whole plan is at risk, we need to find the answers now. We need to ask the regulator why it has not forced the companies to start building the grid ten years ago.


Green councillor Andy Brown added: “There are times to be reasonable with companies and there are times to be robust and get your point across. This is not a little difficulty. This is an utter scandal that they are letting down our businesses.”


Labour councillor Neil Swannick said: “What they are saying is don’t let us embarrass this government which has already made a complete mess of its net zero agenda.”

The authority’s executive member for climate change, Councillor Greg White, said as the council was already in constructive talks with Northern Powergrid he did not believe it was necessary to involve Ofgem.

Councillor Richard Foster added while he believed the authority had made “huge steps forward” with Northern Powergrid in understanding the firm’s issues, uncertainty surrounded the national grid was facing, so it would be wrong to approach the regularity until the authority had more clarity.

He said Northern Powergrid had agreed to attend the council’s area constituency committees to speak with elected members about specific local issues and “the bigger picture”.