WATCH: BEIS’s net-zero business engagement lead’s keynote speech to energy professionals

EXCLUSIVE: The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) net-zero business engagement lead has provided edie’s audience with an update on policymaking for decarbonisation as we approach the end of 2022.

Speaking at edie’s SPARK! Workshop event in London on 30 November, which convened dozens of energy and carbon leaders,Dan Altman from BEIS delivered a keynote address that served to recap on net-zero-related policymaking in the UK this year.

Altman kicked off by stating: “It’s certainly been an interesting few months or year for net-zero. I don’t think anyone could be blamed for feeling a bit uncertain, or even frustrated, at the moment. But the Government is still very much committed to its 2050 net-zero target.”

He later added: “I guess the political uncertainty of the last few months has meant that policies simply haven’t happened at the pace they should. I don’t think Government is at all blind to that. It very much understands the need to provide policy certainty and direction at this time.”

Altman noted that one of the major green policy moves on the horizon is the completion of the Net-Zero Review and the publication of recommendations. Under Liz Truss, Chris Skidmore MP was instructed to conduct the review to assess how the UK could deliver its 2050 target in the most “pro-growth, pro-business” manner.

Skidmore has now finished his public consultations. Recommendations were initially set to be laid before the Government in full this side of the New Year. Altman said he believes that Government will have “quick sight” this month before recommendations are published in full in early January. Ministers will then have until early spring to provide a detailed response.

“There was a fair amount of immediate concern, I think, when the Net Zero Review was announced,” Altman said. “We had a lot of people asking us if this meant that we would de-prioritise [net-zero] and shuffle it under the rug. It’s very much the opposite. It’s a positive step to ensure that net-zero is a solution to the energy crisis and cost-of-living crisis, and not a burden to it.”

This same assurance has been offered by Skidmore and also by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) chairman Lord Deben. Nonetheless, Skidmore did meet with MPs on the Net-Zero Scrutiny Group, which wrongly argues that the costs will outweigh the benefits. Members of this Group have previously been linked to groups actively denying climate change.

Navigating the energy price crisis

The results of the review, Altman stated, should give businesses “clearer direction” on their pathway to net-zero as well as more practical support to cut emissions.

He emphasised that businesses – through trade bodies, directly and through the Review – have continued to engage with BEIS despite changes in Prime Minister and Cabinet membership this year.

He said: “I think the major theme coming out of this is how net-zero and [responding to] the energy crisis go hand-in-hand. In order for many businesses to address net-zero, they first need to address that. If a business can reduce its energy use, this will benefit its finances and emissions [footprint]. With the dramatic rise in energy prices, many businesses are struggling to stay afloat – let alone having time to have the resource to dedicate to net-zero.”

Altman stated that the Net-Zero Review will result in around 60 recommendations, which, as a whole, are “very business-focussed”.

Additionally, he recapped on the measures announced at last month’s Autumn statement, including the creation of a new Energy Efficiency Taskforce and plans to change schemes which keep energy costs low for homes and for businesses from April 2023.

On this latter point, he said he was unable to provide an update on the Energy Bill Relief Scheme for businesses. This was first introduced by Jacob Rees-Mogg, Truss’s pick for BEIS, and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has stated that it will be “more targeted” in its next phase.

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