Green policy continuity the biggest challenge for energy professionals
The UK Government has faced a double dose of criticism over the effectiveness of its current green strategies by leading environmental groups, after surveys revealed that energy professionals and businesses view energy policy continuity as the biggest challenge for their sector.
UK energy professionals polled in an Energy Institute (EI) survey launched this week overwhelmingly agreed that energy policy continuity is the biggest current obstacle for the industry, with many articulating concern that policy uncertainty will lead to under-investment in both UK energy technology and infrastructure.
Specifically, most respondents viewed a lack of policy continuity to carbon capture and storage (CCS) as having a particularly negative impact on industry, similarly to policies relating to renewable electricity deployment, reducing fuel poverty, and simplifying energy taxation. Furthermore, a majority of respondents believed the UK will fall significantly short of its goal of reducing emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
Energy Institute president Professor Jim Skea CBE FEI FRSA said: “The EI’s Energy Barometer 2016 report shows that the single biggest wish for people working in UK energy is a stable energy policy to help industry and financiers decide where to invest profitably and, more crucially, to allow for long-term planning. Renewable energy and capturing carbon – key to implementing the Paris climate agreement – are seen to have been particularly badly hit by policy changes over the last year.”
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) insists it hasn't closed the door to technologies such as CCS, stressing that "tough decisions" were necessary to control Government spending in order to improve the country’s financial outlook.
Responding to the EI research, a DECC spokesperson said: “Our plan is clear. We want a secure, affordable and clean energy system fit for the 21st century.
“We’re doing this by bringing forward a mix of reliable energy sources that will meet our climate change commitments the most cost-effective way.”
Meanwhile, new research carried out by renewable energy specialists CleanEarth Energy has revealed that more than a third of SMEs feel that the Government is failing to introduce policies that will help combat climate change.
The survey, which polled more than 300 owners of SMEs, found that a further 30% are unsure about the effectiveness of current strategies. Just half of UK smaller companies have been able to take measures to adopt renewable energy as a direct consequence, the research found.
The research forms part of a wider report produced by CleanEarth Energy which acknowledges that smaller businesses in the UK have so far been under-represented in the debate about the extensive cuts to solar PV subsidies made last summer. The survey concluded that the environmental agenda is being driven by businesses, rather than Government, with 88% UK SMEs recognising they have a duty to be environmentally responsible.
CleanEarth Energy managing director Dean Robson said: “What this research shows is that UK businesses are behind a drive to combat climate change, but there is a feeling that this is hampered rather than supported by current policy. Despite the Government’s promises to invest in low carbon technology, it is concerning that policy does not reflect this, particularly in the solar PV and wind sectors.
“The recent cuts have left us in a position where many businesses, particularly smaller ones, may not be able to invest in the necessary technology, despite their desire to source renewable energy. If we are to achieve this country’s ambitious renewable targets then more has to be done to support smaller companies.
“At the moment it is progressive businesses that are driving the low-carbon agenda forward thereby shaping how we power our world. However, there is an increasing feeling that this is in spite of Government policy, rather than because of it.”
The surveys reflect a general consensus among environmental groups that the Government is "going backwards" on low-carbon energy policies and urgently needs to restore domestic confidence through "coherent, consistent policy" that champions low-carbon businesses.
Earlier this month, a new report from the Renewable Energy Association (REA) claimed that impressive growth in the renewables industry will be slowed over the coming years due to "turbulent" policy changes.
Despite a record-breaking year both globally and nationally, the UK's renewables sector has suffered from a “Jenga approach” to green policy that has seen Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) slashed and government incentives scrapped.