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  • Writer's picturePeers for the Planet

Energy Matters: Across the economy

P4P Chair, Baroness Hayman, has written an essay for Energy UK's publication Energy Matters: Across the economy , a collection of essays from business leaders, community groups and parliamentarians.

The UK’s leadership on the global stage is vital

Responding to the energy price crisis, fuelled by high fossil fuel prices, has been the challenge of this Parliament, but decarbonising and tackling climate change is a challenge which transcends election cycles. The two are linked, and how we respond to the former will impact our success in achieving the latter.

Energy is a commodity that links virtually every sector and so success here is key to achieving an orderly transition. But we cannot meet the ambitious electrification targets we have set if they are primarily based on top-line ambitions and aspirations. We need serious plans, led by Government in partnership with industry, that are long-term in nature and accountable in their governance. While we should be proud of what we have achieved already we can’t afford to be complacent and rest on our laurels.

The phrase ‘low hanging fruit’ is often used when describing our decarbonisation journey so far. And yet, while it is true we have picked much of that fruit already, there remains one opportunity which I have been trying to persuade the Government on for several years – unlocking onshore wind and putting it on a level playing field with other renewables. Despite some recent progress in this area and some signs of a shift in policy, the Government have not yet grasped that opportunity in full.

We know that renewable energy sources are now cheaper than the fossil fuel alternatives, and we need to have an open discussion about how the public can benefit, not just from the cleaner air that an electrified economy will result in, but from the associated cost savings for bill payers. It is crucial that the public are brought along on this journey, and passing on these savings or giving communities a sense of ownership in a shared asset are some of the ways to achieve this. But it is on Government to set the key milestones, the robust measures against which progress can be assessed, and clear roles and responsibilities.

We need the ambitious targets that we have for renewable generation to be replicated to address energy demand and energy efficiency, and the current EPC certification scheme needs to be urgently refreshed to reflect the movement towards the installation of heat pumps and the effects they can have on the efficiency banding, and therefore the value, of property.

It was very welcome to see the Chancellor respond to our calls and address the fundamental lack of equity in our tax and subsidy regimes for investing in fossil fuels versus renewables and other clean energy technologies, and to see the investment allowance enjoyed by the oil and gas industry extended to the renewable industry in the recent Autumn Statement. However, we need to go further.

The success of our domestic renewable industry was once the envy of the world, but other countries have now caught up with us which means that we are competing on a global market for parts and skills. This leads to new challenges both in terms of infrastructure, the upgrading of the grid is rightly a Government priority, and in how we can compete globally for the right skills. We need to think of ways for workers, including those working in oil and gas, to transition to renewables and the right training for the energy industry’s future workforce.

The Government talks about putting accountability and long-term decision-making at the heart of policy making, but we are still lacking the golden thread weaving climate and energy policy throughout the Government’s agenda.

What we do in the UK really matters and has reverberations across the globe. Because of our reputation as a global climate leader, when we change direction other countries do take notice – this is not the time to step back, despite the challenges which undoubtedly exist.

The UK has led on this in the past, and I hope that we can again.

You can read the full collection of essays here.


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