Aldersgate chairman outlines evolving markets and policy drivers

The general election will not dramatically shape the future of environmental policy, regardless of the outcome and the UK's efforts to stimulate environmental markets are likely to be eclipsed globally by the direction decided on by the USA.

These were just two of the titbits to take home from a presentation that covered everything from UK policy drivers to global energy use from Peter Young, chairman of the Aldersgate Group, when he spoke at the SmartestEnergy annual conference this week.

Mr Young provided a comprehensive outline of current and planned policy that would impact on energy efficiency and generation in the UK over coming years.

He also said that globally, the change in leadership in the USA means a potentially huge shift in markets.

“With the Obama administration coming in suddenly there’s huge investment,” he said.

While the UK had earmarked around £1.5bn of public money for clean energy over the past year, the USA was talking about $150bn.

“For example, there’s one military base has gone into a low carbon procurement process,” he said.

“It has purchased more electric vehicles than we have ever sold in the UK to date. They are replicating that around, so they can create markets beyond our wildest dreams if they want to.”

He also said that despite the flop that was COP15, international carbon trading would be a certainty before 2012 and the importance of progress on environmental issues would not be a contentious one, no matter what the political landscape looked like after the general election.

“The election isn’t going to be fought on this,” he said.

“It’s going to be on the traditional safe grounds of education, health, law and order. You’ll see a difference in style not content.”

Global population, energy demand and environmental pressures do not give the parties much room to manoeuvre on this, he argued.

The most obvious way to tackle energy consumption globally, he said, was to reduce demand by increasing efficiency.

Global energy efficiency is currently running at about 12%, he said, meaning we are effectively wasting almost 90% of the fuel we use.

“There’s no reason we can’t get that to 30%,” he said.

“Energy efficiency has got enormous potential.”

Sam Bond

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