Energy and Climate Committee: Next UK regime must support new technologies

In its final report of this Parliament, the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) says the next Government must turn its focus to nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) and provide better support for the research and development of low-carbon technologies.

The interactive report, titled ‘Fueling the debate‘, outlines the key challenges that the new Government must overcome if a decarbonised energy system is to be realised by 2030.

The Committee, chaired by veteran Tory MP and nuclear and fracking enthusiast Tim Yeo, also provides an overview of its own role in what it calls a ‘defining period for energy and climate change policy’. Electricity market reform, improving competition in the market and exploring the potential for shale gas were particular successes of the ECCC, according to the report. 

‘Misguided campaigners’

Yeo said: “With the right policies in place, we can have a low-carbon, high-competition, super-efficient and much more secure energy system by 2030. But to get there the next Government must stand its ground in the centre.”

“It must face down the misguided campaigners who oppose any form of fracking and all onshore wind. Instead, it must allow business to find the lowest cost low-carbon solutions. It must continue to lead on climate change, support emissions trading, maintain investor confidence with long-term targets and stable policy, and ensure that electricity market reforms encourage innovation.”

Nuclear & CCS

The Committee reports that the high cost of researching and developing new technologies means the Government must support more research and innovation, but be careful not to base policy decisions on the assumption that those technologies will be commercially viable in time to contribute significantly to meeting the UK’s low-carbon targets.

This is particularly the case with CCS, the ECCC states. The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) recently stressed the importance of CCS technology to a cost-effective low-carbon transition for the UK, stating it would reduce the cost by half.

The Committee also claims that nuclear will play a vital contribution to the energy transition, agreeing with the finding of 75 scientists who co-signed an open letter in January arguing that nuclear must be deployed to replace fossil fuels.

Other ECCC report findings:

The UK needs to keep a diverse energy mix – including traditional technologies such as gas – to ensure value for money for consumers.

‘Maintaining political stability and leadership’ is a key concern, therefore the Committee welcomes the agreement between the three main political parties to work together to tackle climate change regardless of the outcome of the General Election in May.

The Government’s efforts to engage consumers in energy efficiency through the Green Deal have largely failed. The scheme must be replaced with a policy that genuinely engages the consumer to bring about a step-change in energy efficiency. 

With £100bn investment required to achieve the energy transition, the Government must prioritise investor confidence by setting the fifth carbon budget, provide clarification of the future of the Levy Control Framework (LCF) and the allocations of Contracts for Difference early in the next Parliament. This would avoid a hiatus in investment in building low-carbon power generation.

On an international level, the UK Government must continue to provide strong international leadership on climate change, working hard to secure a global climate deal at COP21 in Paris at the end of the year.

Responding to the report, the Renewable Energy Association’s chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: “A stable regulatory framework which provides long-term certainty for investment is crucial to the development of renewable energy. This is why we join the Committee’s call for the next government to quickly clarify the future of the allocations for Contracts for Difference as a priority in the next parliament.

“We are encouraged by the report’s recognition that storage technologies and combined heat and power are increasingly being used to maximise energy efficiency. We are firm in the belief that other technologies, including marine, solar and geothermal can also play a huge role in meeting our energy needs, and Tim Yeo’s call for evidence based policy is therefore particularly welcome.

“We strongly support the Committee’s recognition that a cleaner, more affordable energy system could be in jeopardy unless government becomes more honest and transparent about the costs and benefits of moving towards low carbon generation.” 

Lucinda Dann

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