After weeks of delays and political bickering, you could be forgiven to thinking that ‘the greenest government ever’ were taking the time to produce an Energy Bill that delivered clear energy policies whilst concentrating on lowering carbon emissions. But what was the outcome?
No 2030 decarbonisation target has been announced:
After months of attempts from the coalition to agree on this topic, a decision was made to delay any target until at least 2016. This opens the door to a ‘dash for gas’ favoured by George Osborne, and it was quietly announced that a Gas Generation Strategy will be released next month. According to the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC), following this strategy will put our legally binding carbon budgets at risk increasing the chance of large scale fines.
Another problem arises from this short term solution to a long term problem. If a decarbonisation target was introduced in 2016, then newly built gas plants would need to be shut down early to ensure the target is reached. This would invoke a spike in gas prices and leave a hole in the energy mix – a substantial future problem that seems to have been side-lined.
This announcement also seemingly ignores the 50 companies, including Microsoft and Marks & Spencer, who signed a letter to George Osborne stating that they needed to see a decarbonisation target as a sign of commitment and stability from the government before investing in the UK.
Renewable Energy projects receive large subsidy boost:
In what was widely believed to be the product of a compromise on the decarbonisation target, significant funding has been cemented for investment in renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage – with the aim of a 30% contribution to the energy mix by 2020.
At least £7.6 bn a year will be available come 2020, to aid development through so-called contract for difference (CfD) incentives, a government initiative aimed at producing low carbon electricity projects. This will provide some consolation and certainty to investors that were hoping to see a decarbonisation target.
It will lead to further increases in energy bills, but these will largely be offset by efficiency gains. A strong, short-term investment now means we will reap the financial benefits in the long run.
Introduction of a capacity market:
This mechanism will provide additional payments to thermal plants that agree to supply back-up power as the UK becomes more reliant on intermittent energy sources. This is due to start in the winter of 2018-2019.
In conclusion, it feels like we are walking what is a 100m sprint. No decarbonisation targets mean there is a free rein on emissions over the next 4 years at least. With the gas strategy, the government have shied away from making tough decisions now which will benefit the country in the long run. Eventually every country will be reliant on renewables, so why not switch now and become a leading player? Yes, the clear intent from the government to invest in renewables is a major step forward but it might be some time before we see the benefits.
So is the future green? Let’s say its light green…
For something more inspiring and to take action TODAY, check out Dorset Energized’s web pages on choosing renewable energy, switching to a renewable energy supplier and some of our tips on Energy Efficiency.