Renewables: The policy vision for a net-zero future

The General Election is a huge opportunity for a new government to make a transformative difference to climate change through investment in renewables, Juliet Davenport, chief executive and founder of Good Energy suggests.

Renewables: The policy vision for a net-zero future

As the UK prepares to go to the polls, climate change is on the agenda. Greta and the school strikes, the IPCC report last October, David Attenborough’s vivid documenting of the impact of a changing climate on our planet. They have all played their part in highlighting the dangers of a runaway climate.

Support for the solutions is well and truly mainstream — our research has shown that 75% of the UK think the government should be doing more to support renewables.

As a business that is fighting for renewables every day, and has done for 20 years, we believe there are three simple areas of change that could have a transformative difference. They do not require the spending of billions of pounds, or untested regulation.  And they could be achieved quickly. 

Our policy priorities for this election are:

1) Encouraging research and innovation

Conduct a thorough review of our research institutions.

We simply will not be able to achieve net-zero emissions without continued excellence in research and innovation. The next government should complete a review to ensure they are fit for purpose. And pulling in the same direction – towards net-zero.

Make energy systems data available to innovators.

Our digital economy is driven by data. Yet we sorely lack open data within energy. We need to make more data available to innovators to allow for real disruption and challenge, and ultimately drive down costs for customers.

Support large numbers of innovative new companies

‘Incubators’ are common in the technology, finance and mobile space and a proven platform to give early-stage innovators the support they need, we have yet to see this in clean energy.

We need to see greater collaboration – if new energy start-ups were given access to the wealth of capital and expertise already commanded by industry insiders, we could accelerate the development of disruptive technologies and systems.

2) Better regulation

Give our regulators teeth

In October, the National Infrastructure Commission published a study into the UK’s regulated sectors, recommending Ofgem, Ofcom and Ofwat should have duties to promote the achievement of net-zero. The absence of a mandate means that fossil fuel companies can cling on to the high-carbon status quo, undermining policies which may reduce emissions but challenge their business models. The government should instruct its regulators to help protect households from the longer-term threat of climate change.

End the hostile policy environment

The last few years have seen more and more policy obstacles placed in the way for the technologies we need to reach net-zero. We now pay carbon taxes on renewable generation; onshore wind has been stopped in its tracks, and VAT on solar panels and home storage has risen.

This will not deliver net-zero. The hostile policy environment has damaged investor confidence, slowed the progress of vital renewable generation and prevented the rollout of net-zero infrastructure.

3) Protect and empower people

Empower people to be part of the solution

The clean energy system of the future will not be a few large generators. We already have hundreds of thousands of homes in the UK generating power via rooftop solar – we need to make these millions. Let’s start with ensuring all new homes have high-efficiency standards, electric vehicle charging points and solar and battery storage wherever possible.

Stop the greenwash

The Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO) scheme is designed to provide transparency. However, these certificates can be traded separately from the power, at extraordinarily low prices. This loophole is increasingly being taken advantage of at significant scale, with suppliers claiming to offer ‘100% renewable’ tariffs, despite holding little or no contracts with renewable generators. One of the best examples was earlier this year, when Shell Energy went from 3.7% renewable to 100% renewable overnight.

We need to restore people’s trust in renewable suppliers by ensuring REGOs can only be traded with the power they relate to.

Improve engagement with energy

Smart metering provides an opportunity to encourage people to engage with the way they use, generate, store and share energy. The way that smart is positioned to people has hugely improved, but there are still flaws with the rollout. ‘In Home Displays’ are an idea that made sense in 2007, but not in the age of the smartphone. The current rollout arrangements threaten innovation, and the environment, and compromise the bill savings they are supposed to deliver. Let’s rethink the best ways for people to interact with their energy use.

We have shared all of the above in a more detailed format with energy policymakers in each of the major political parties. You can read what we sent here.


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