UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has answered crucial questions on the Government’s approach to energy efficiency, fracking, renewable energy subsidies and climate change. Rudd was questioned by the Energy and Climate Change Committee in Parliament as part of the Committee’s inquiry into DECC’s priorities for 2015.
The Secretary of State and her Permanent Secretary Stephen Lovegrove discussed plans to meet long-term renewables and decarbonisation targets and the level of ambition that will be taken to the UN climate change conference in Paris later this year.
The inquiry comes at a crucial time for Rudd’s Department. In the months since the election, the Tories have overseen the scrapping of a tax exemption for renewable energy, a subsidy cut for onshore wind, budget cuts for DECC and the Green Investment Bank.
The Levy Control Framework (LCF) – which is meant to provide clean energy subsidies through to 2020/21 – has come under scrutiny in recent months. Last month, Labour MP Alan Whitehead – who sits on the Climate Change Committee – said the LCF was effectively bust and that the mechanism had not worked in the way it should have. Rudd confirmed that the Levy Control Framework costs will have risen from £7.6bn to £9.1bn by 2020/21 and that the industry requires certainty beyond 2021. Discussions on the future of the LCF are ongoing.
On the topic of generation, one of the most controversial subject areas for the new Government is onshore wind subsidies. Just weeks into her tenure as the UK’s new Energy Secretary, Rudd confirmed controversial plans to end onshore wind subsidies, much to the dismay of the industry. It was reinforced that the subsidies for renewable generation must be cut. Whilst the Government says it remains committed to onshore wind as part of the fuel mix, it has deployed faster than expected and is taking more of the subsidy that is available.
With regard to Fracking, despite Prime Minister David Cameron famously said he would be going “all out for shale” (known as fracking), Lancashire County Council rejected Cuadrilla’s two fracking applications. Rudd said that the Government remained committed to the exploration for shale as an important part of the energy mix for the UK as it is vital for decarbonisation targets because it is effectively a low-carbon source. She declared that the Government will continue to win the battle by reassuring people that the experts in the field have given their stamp of approval.
Ms Rudd also discussed energy storage stating she would like to see much more successful energy storage. Investing and supporting and working with innovation and scientific communities is going to be an essential part of this going forward.
The Cop21 climate talks in Paris later in 2015 are being hailed as the start of the international effort to reduce climate change my making sure that the architecture is in place to achieve carbon targets internationally. Rudd explained that the aim is to get all 194 countries signed up to keeping the two degrees target within reach. The UK is pushing for five-year reviews in which there will be an aggregate look at progress.
Asked if she felt comfortable with the level of ambition of the EU’s proposed 40% carbon reduction target expected to be brought forward to the climate talks, Rudd added: “It’s not always right to put the maximum effort you can achieve on the table straight away. We’re trying to bring so many other countries with us, so the fact that the EU has a commitment which is ambitious for the EU but not necessarily for the UK is the right place for us to be now.”