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Autumn Statement: what will become of the UK’s energy policy?

Posted by: Lauren Cox 8 Nov 16  | Climate Change |  Energy |  Renewable Energy

One year has passed since COP21. That’s 12 whole months since over one hundred world leaders congregated in Paris to discuss their energy policies in relation to climate change. They came to a legally binding agreement to hold temperatures to a maximum of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in order to prevent the catastrophic effects of global warming.

The UK pledged one step further; we aimed for a new goal of zero net emissions through renewable energy sources by 2050 and beyond. This was ambitious, with the UK alone churning out round 12.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, but doable with 100% clean energy sources. 

Check out our post on the UN Climate Conference: What Did We Learn? For more information on the Paris climate change agreement.

However, in rouse of Brexit, the appointed of Teresa May as Prime Minister and the fold of Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), where do the UK stand now? Will Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement in two weeks shed more light, or keep us in the dark on the UK’s ever changing energy policy? 

Brexit

There’s no doubt that the uncertainty stirred by a whirlwind 12 months has raised anxiety levels. Latest developments in the Brexit saga, whereby the High Court have ruled that parliament must vote to trigger Article 50, will make or break the situation by adding to anxiety or by filling people with more confidence.

Fall from grace 

It is suggested though, that the uncertainty mainly stems from a distinct lack of policy direction. Former Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, exclaimed at last week’s Energy Live event: “They’re crying out for clarity in policy so that we can get the investment they desperately need.”

Second to this, just two weeks prior to this statement, the World Energy Council’s latest statistics saw the UK – a country that played a pivotal role in last year’s historic climate change agreement – plummet out of yet another global top 10 based on energy security, affordability and decarbonisation.

Open for business

So will the Autumn Statement be the government’s opportunity to show that Britain are open for business amidst the uncertainty of Brexit?

Energy Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe believes that the government’s decision to green light Hinkley Point C has already helped towards doing just that, and the nuclear renaissance won’t stop there.

Just yesterday, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced its commitment of £20million for an initial phase of a new nuclear research and innovation program by 2050.

This will ultimately include improving efficiency through advanced nuclear fuels and the investment of £5million for research that emphasises development, safety and efficiency of the next generation of nuclear reactor designs. Interestingly, a lower sum will be dedicated to the research of recycling processes that may reduce future environmental and financial implications.

In contrast and ahead of the Autumn Statement, latest figures from BEIS have shown that public backing for nuclear energy has decreased by 3% in the last quarter in wake of the controversial Hinkley Point C decision, with the majority of people across the UK supporting the use of cleaner technologies. 

Does this mean that the government may finally lift the ban on onshore wind farms?

The uncertainty caused by Brexit has had a knock-on effect on investment; a well-defined energy policy will be essential for the UK to move forward post Brexit in order to build confidence. Will investment in low carbon projects be available through the Levy Control Framework beyond 2020? Will there be further investment into energy efficiency and smart projects? 

After all, a recent report by Research and Markets has forecasted revenue from the global smart energy market to grow at a CAGR in excess of 14.91% over the next 4 years alone. It has been speculated ever since Brexit that costs of energy bills are set to soar. With smart projects ensuring that both costs and energy productivity is managed, surely this is a safe bet?

The coming months will see post-Brexit Britain become surer. This means a stronger energy policy which will set us up to succeed in our low-carbon transition and meet our fifth carbon budget. We’re hopeful that the Autumn Statement will be used as a platform to set this out. 

 

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