UK energy secretary Chris Huhne today attacked the “unholy alliance of climate sceptics and armchair engineers” that he said are “selling Britain’s ingenuity short” by rubbishing the country’s renewable energy targets.

Speaking at a conference in Manchester hosted by trade body RenewableUK, Huhne said it was time to “retire the myths” that renewables are too expensive, cannot deliver at scale and are unreliable and uneconomic.

He said that currently 10 GW of the UK’s electricity was generated by renewables and added that opinion polls showed strong backing for solar, wind, hydroelectric and biomass projects.

He said the “sharp reality of green growth” was demonstrated by figures which showed that last year 4,500 new jobs were created in “the low-carbon sector”.

Huhne also said shale gas should not be seen as “our saviour” ahead of renewables. “We don’t yet know the full extent of shale gas here – how economically or environmentally viable it will be to extract or by when. At best it is years away. Shale gas may be significant. It is exciting. But we do not yet know enough to bet the farm on it.”