Government criticised for ‘lack of foresight’ over low-carbon heat

EXCLUSIVE: The UK Government has "suppressed the progress" of green technologies through a chop-and-change approach to green policies such as the RHI scheme, an audience of sustainability professionals at edie Live was told today (17 May).

Owain Mortimer, the energy and climate change manager for independent, cross-party organisation Policy Connect, labelled the changes to green policy as “detrimental” to many business decarbonisation programmes.

Addressing a packed audience within the edie Leaders Theatre at edie Live this morning, Mortimer called on the Government to adjust its approach towards green policy to better match the UK’s broader climate and energy needs.

“For whatever reason, the argument around domestic action on climate change and sustainability has taken a backseat in the last year,” Mortimer said. “There appears to be a barrier to the creation of policies that are truly effective in helping making long-term carbon reductions and meeting the climate change commitments that the UK is legally bound to meet.

“It shouldn’t be like that in 2016, but unfortunately that is the climate we find ourselves in.”

‘Severely detrimental’

Mortimer, who also manages the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group, highlighted specific Government policy failures such as the recent scrappage of the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) fund and the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) reform.

On the Government’s controversial decision not to renew commitments to the RHI scheme until late 2015, Mortimer said: “Businesses weren’t able to include non-domestic policy into their business plan and have enough time to feel the benefit, thus supressing the development of many other technologies available.

“The lack of foresight and long-term planning has been severely detrimental to the heat decarbonisation programme,” Mortimer added. “This is the type of decision that must be avoided. The Government must adjust its long-term approach towards policy that matches the UK’s climate and energy need and allows businesses to integrate sustainability measures into a business framework.

“The evidence is there but the Government has to show a desire to use it.”

Mortimer went on to label Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to scrap the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme as “disappointing”, because of the way the Government plans to address its abolition, as many organisations feel the CCL covers different criteria. He therefore called for a more specific focus on carbon emissions reduction.

Finally, Mortimer stressed the importance of policymakers being aware of the impact these regular changes to policy has caused to investment in low-carbon. This follows a report for EY which stated that the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for investment in renewable energy has reached an all-time low due to a series of unexpected green policy U-turns.

‘Challenge for business’

Also speaking in the session was Aldersgate Group’s director David Symons, who put forward a different viewpoint, claiming that Government regulation has in fact provided a strong enough platform for businesses to develop ambitious sustainability programmes.

Symons said: “Regulation is the lowest base that sets the ground rules. Government is making progress, we would like it to make more progress. But remember that business can generally move much faster than Government can, generally having a bigger global reach, more innovative and have the potential to interact with customers more.

“Government has done it’s bit to reduce major greenhouse gas impact, it has regulated for that. The challenge for business is to execute the opportunities.”

Also in attendance of the edie Live session was the DECC’s deputy director of head of business use, Michael Jampel, who outlined the Government’s plans for a new simplified energy reporting framework, which he insisted would “reduce the burdens on business by reducing overlap”.

Jampel said: “The Climate Change Levy (CCL) provides a price signal and increases energy efficiency and reducses administrative burdens through simple and effective reporting.”

edie Live 2016: There’s still time to register!

Come along to day two of the edie Live 2016 exhibition for free – you can register for your free edie Live 2016 entry badge here. That entry badge gives you unlimited access to: –

  • Three practical seminar theatres – energy efficiency, resource efficiency and onsite solutions
  • The edie Sustainability Leaders keynote stage
  • Professional advice clinics that visitors can book via the show website
  • Innovation Zone and technology showcases
  • Hundreds of new products and services

For more information on edie Live 2016, including the full seminar and Leaders theatre programme, click here.

George Ogleby

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