The Government has set out its early priorities for the new Parliament. The priorities for DECC are clear: keeping the lights on and powering the economy; keeping bills low and getting a robust climate deal in Paris this year. In the Queens speech, the plan to deliver this was outlined.
It was observed that the UK is one of the most energy secure countries in the world. The National Grid has the right tools in place to deal with the toughest system conditions – its new services to balance the electricity system meant that healthy margins were maintained throughout the last winter. In the medium term, there is a Capacity Market to make sure there is enough energy available to meet future peak demand Longer term the UK is investing in new energy infrastructure – new nuclear and renewables, as well as exploring for shale gas.
Despite the cuts in carbon emissions planned for the coming decades, we will also need oil and gas included in the energy mix. In order to sustain supply, the UK must focus on home grown energy sources rather than relying on imports. The proposed new Energy Bill will boost the UK oil and gas industry by creating an independent regulator for exploration and production from the territorial sea and UK continental shelf. It is hoped that the new approach to industry collaboration (which will fully implement last year’s independent review) will help drive down costs and improve the efficiency.
As well as maintain security of supply, prolonging the life of the mature oil and gas producing basin aims to sustain its contribution to the economy bringing revenue, contributing to growth and employment; the energy industry in the UK already supports around 375,000 jobs.
The proposed Bill will also empower local people with a greater say on windfarm applications. Large scale wind farm applications (over 50MW) are currently determined the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change through the planning regime. Allowing local people the power to decide whether they want a wind farm in their area may not deliver the Government’s aims but provide a hindrance to the development of a renewable source of energy that is often plentiful in the UK.
It is widely recognised that man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats this country and the world faces. The Government has committed to making the Paris Summit in December 2015 a success and is looking for delivery of a comprehensive, rules based agreement that keeps to the objective of limiting global warming to 2 degrees. The three biggest carbon emitters – the EU, US and China will all be in attendance and a global deal is vital to deliver the scale of action required.
It is important to note that the UK is already making its own progress – emissions are down 30% on 1990 levels currently and it is reported that we are on track to deliver our ambitious 2050 targets.
With the focus on becoming more self-sufficient, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and the commitment to a global climate change agreement, it will be interesting to see how the Government manages the resistance to shale gas exploration and on-shore wind farms from the electorate and delivers on the above. Watch this space!