BEIS aims to rollout emissions reduction plan in February

The permanent secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Alex Chisholm revealed that he expects an emissions reduction plan to be published by the end of February 2017.

As part of the first session for the new BEIS Committee – which replaces the now disbanded ECC – Chisholm claimed that a plan to meet post-2020 reduction targets should be introduced by February. The permanent secretary also claimed that BEIS would “learn the lessons of the past” in regards to financing the low-carbon transition.

“This Government has adopted Carbon Budget number five and has made great progress on the budgets to date,” Chisholm said. “We’re well on course to meeting budgets two and three, and for the fourth we’ve made inroads.

“It gets a little bit harder each budget, and the fifth will see us focus on transport and heat systems. By February something should be in place [regarding a plan].”

The Government provided a much-needed confidence boost for the green economy in June by approving the Fifth Carbon Budget, heeding the advice of the ECC to limit annual emissions to 57% below 1990 levels by the year 2032.

With the BEIS Committee’s predecessor previously warning that the UK will miss crucial 2020 renewable heat and transport targets without “major policy improvements”, Chisholm claimed that the new department would be better prepared to “repair” financing mechanisms to accelerate improvements to low-carbon heat and transport infrastructure.

During a committee hearing largely dominated by calls for financial clarity in regards to the Department’s budget, Chisholm claimed that he was committed to spending public money “wisely”. In regards to financing the low-carbon transition, Chisholm felt that “relevant lessons” could be learnt from the previous Government’s handling of green investment.

Framework overspend

He claimed that the much-maligned Levy Control Framework was an “unusual scheme” but one that provided “confidence, measurability and control” now that is was “back on track” after overspending the £7.6bn budget by a projected £2bn.

Chisholm claimed that moving to “competitive” Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions – established as part of the 2016 Budget proposals – was key to balancing the Framework overspend and provided a “historic example of how the department is willing to make mid-air repairs” as long as it listened to the advice from the likes of the National Audit Office (NAO).

“I think it is tremendously important that we take the evidence from the NAO on things like the Levy Control Framework and also the Green Deal and that we do learn the relevant lessons,” Chisholm said. “I’m very committed to making sure we spend public money very wisely.”

Chisholm’s remarks fell on the same day that the NAO published a report providing a clear break down of why the Framework overspend took place. The analysis claimed that the Government used “insignificant” market data to identify the causes of the overspend, which led to cuts to renewables subsidies that reduced the overall framework spend to £8.7bn.

However, the report notes that solar energy contributed just £130m – or 6% – to the sudden £2bn increase. In response, the Solar Trade Association (STA) – which has previously called for transparency on the overspend – has proposed a new £6m uptake of the Feed-in Tariff scheme.

STA’s chief executive Paul Barwell said: “The unexpected growth in solar power was repeatedly fingered as a key reason for the overspend on renewables. In fact, NAO analysis shows solar accounts for only 6% of the overspend – but solar has borne the brunt of corrective measures.

“That’s a great shame when the technology has become so popular and is now so affordable. We hope the new Department will take stock of the low cost impact of solar and act to restore confidence to the sector.”

The green business community recently told edie of the importance for the new Business and Industrial Strategy (BIS) Committee to continue to hold the Government to account over key green policy issues.

Matt Mace

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