Andrea Leadsom: However we choose to leave the EU, we remain committed to dealing with climate change
Conservative Party leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom took to the plinth in her capacity as Energy Minister at the Utility Week Energy Summit, insisting that the UK "remains committed to dealing with climate change", no matter the outcome of Brexit.
Addressing the energy industry and wider stakeholders at the Energy Summit in Westminster yesterday (5 July), Leadsom praised the Government’s “fantastic success story” of securing renewable energy investment, and spoke of a “shift in direction” for future electricity generation and storage.
The Tory leader hopeful, who has this week emerged as the most likely candidate to challenge front-runner Theresa May, gave “no apology” for the recent raft of highly controversial changes to energy policy – including the slashing of subsidies and scrapping of key energy efficiency schemes – in an apparent effort to reduce costs.
As one of the only energy and environment ministers that had campaigned for Brexit in the run-up to the EU Referendum, Leadsom began her speech by insisting that energy policy “will stay the same” after Britain leaves the bloc.
“As my friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change [Amber Rudd] said last week, there is no change to the challenges we face. As a Government, we remain fully committed to providing families and businesses with energy that is secure, affordable and clean.
“There is no change to our commitment to work with other countries in pursuit of these goals. And there is no change to our commitment to a clear energy policy framework and a strong, investment-friendly economy. So we have a continuity of aims, and of principles.”
Leadsom, who appeared in front of the Energy and Climate Change Committee last week to discuss similar issues, went on to address the three corners of the ‘energy trilemma’: security of supply, affordability and decarbonisation. On the latter, the Energy Minister was quick to “correct any misperceptions people may have about the implications of the EU referendum result”.
“Decarbonising our energy system is not some abstract regulatory requirement; it is an essential responsibility that we hold towards our children and grandchildren, as the only way to effectively counter the threat of climate change,” Leadsom said.
“However we choose to leave the EU, let me be clear: we remain committed to dealing with climate change.”
But regardless of the outcome of Brexit, sustainability professionals, green groups and opposition parties have questioned that level of commitment on climate change, considering the Government’s ‘chop-and-change’ approach to green policy, and the apparent impact it is already having on investment.
Here, Leadsom was again quick to quash any quandaries, insisting all of the changes have been made with the bill-payer front-of-mind. “I make no apology for the fact that we have had to take some steps to reduce costs,” she said. “Our responsibility is to manage public spending carefully and sensibly.
“When the cost of renewables falls dramatically, it cannot be in our interests to pay generators above the odds, while the public foots the bill. I believe that it is in all of our interests to reach the point where clean energy can deploy without subsidy, and the government can remove itself from the market, as soon as possible."
Leadsom was speaking on the same day as the National Grid released its annual ‘Future energy Scenarios’ report, which concluded that Britain is on track to miss a legally-binding renewable energy target.
Under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, the UK must produce 15% of all final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. In none of the National Grid’s four scenarios is the country predicted to achieve the target. The power sector is on course to make the required contribution, according to the Grid, but as things stand, heat and transport are not.