The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has unveiled its much-anticipated green paper, outlining plans to transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy. Unfortunately the industrial strategy document has been met with criticism that it does not offer enough tangible evidence that we are on the best pathway to a low-carbon economy?
The Green Paper provides a strong signal in areas such as green innovation and climate change resilience but offers little assistance with carbon capture and storage innovations or the transition to low-carbon heat.
The broad consensus of green organisations and sustainability professionals is that the country does, at the very least, have a clear opportunity to drive forward with low-carbon commitments. The vision of the 132-page document is underpinned by a plan to deliver affordable energy and cleaner growth. The Government aims to achieve this by upgrading infrastructure, improving supply chains and increasing investment in research and innovation.
The Prime Minister’s message that the country will be more outward looking than ever before as a global trading nation is expected to provide a much-needed confidence-boost for investors during the uncertain period of the Brexit negotiations; effectively underlining that that the UK can lead the global race to dominate clean technology markets.
The Industrial Strategy announcement seems to indicate a path of evolution not revolution regarding energy and the transition to a low-carbon economy. Whilst the commitment to energy security and tackling climate change are expectations rather than aspirations, the main area that the Government needs to focus on is exploiting innovative new technologies in the most cost-effective way possible to deliver a cleaner environment.
A world-leading sustainable economy must be driven by a technically-skilled UK workforce to steer emerging industries and the Industrial Strategy recognises the potential for job creation in low-carbon sectors to help deliver economic growth in line with the UK’s carbon reduction pledges. The paper specifically mentions the significant opportunity for a high-skilled national workforces to develop a supply chain of smaller businesses and build a competitive industrial base.
This need for additional skills is closely aligned with investment in smart technologies such as demand response, energy storage and electric vehicles. The bringing together of such technologies is a practical and opportunistic move as step-changes in innovation will likely involve all of them. The paper notes the potential for electric vehicles to provide electricity storage and demand flexibility options that could provide benefits to consumers and our electricity system.
The paper is however not without some shortcomings. An example of this is the report’s failure to address the renewable energy policy gaps created in recent years through subsidy cuts for onshore wind and solar panels. Going one step further, the paper refers to the launch of anew review aimed at lowering the cost of cutting carbon in the power and industrial sectors – which another review which is likely to add reductions in subsidies for offshore wind energy which will widen the policy gap. The report describes a settled policy position which reflects Government’s commitment to meeting its legally-binding targets under the Climate Change Act which suggests that there is little hope for renewed financial support for renewables.
Furthermore, whilst low-carbon heat is often regarded as the failing element of green policy, there is no suggestion that the Government will reverse the controversial cut to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This is a matter of concern given that the UK is not even halfway towards reaching the 12% target for heat generated from renewables. Additionally, there was no specific reference for the now-stagnant carbon capture and storage (CCS) industry. Whilst the Climate Minister Nick Hurd has insisted that the Government is not closing the door on the technology, it is disappointing that the opportunity to provide support to CCS was not seized.
The Green Paper is the first step in the consultation process with the final strategy being delivered later this year. The Government is now inviting people from across the public and private sectors to respond to the Industrial Strategy consultation by 17th April 2017.
We will be feeding back to BEIS on the following questions relating to the delivery of affordable energy and clean growth:
- What are the most important steps the government should take to limit energy costs over the long-term?
- How can we move towards a position in which energy is supplied by competitive markets without the requirement for on-going subsidy?
- How can government, business and researchers work together to develop the competitive opportunities from innovation in energy and our existing industrial strengths?
- How can government support businesses in realising cost savings through greater resource and energy efficiency?
The consultation closes on 17th April 2017. We are formulating our response to the consultation and would welcome your feedback to incorporate into this. To have your say, please email the compliance team at firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively complete the contact form. To discuss this further please call Melanie Kendall-Reid on 01252 87 87 22.