Brexit puts UK’s clean energy future in doubt
Britain has spent years developing a Clean Growth Plan to transition to clean energy, while keeping reliability up and costs down. Brexit is putting all that at risk.
That’s the conclusion of the latest Energy Institute (EI) Energy Barometer, put together with input from nearly 500 UK energy professionals and experts. This is also the first year that the Barometer has taken into account recent political upheavals, such as the 2016 UK Brexit decision.
The report gauges key concerns from within the industry and aims to inform the UK government’s Industrial Strategy, the Clean Growth Plan to meet the country’s fifth carbon budget, even as the government negotiates the Brexit deal.
The key take-aways from this year’s Barometer are:
- Concerns over energy policy
- The UK’s energy investment environment
- The need for energy system change.
Further, the report concludes that “Uncertainty around Brexit and wider geopolitics could negatively impact efforts to develop a clear strategy, to update infrastructure, and to meet demand and climate targets at least cost to end users.”
“The call for a predictable, no-surprises policy environment is reinforced in the 2017 Energy Barometer with clear advice to those negotiating Brexit,” explained EI President Professor Jim Skea CBE FEI. “Workforce availability and the smooth transition of energy and climate change laws need to be priorities.”
“The Barometer also reflects the need for ministers to bring forward a credible Clean Growth Plan to demonstrate how they intend to course-correct the UK’s emission reduction efforts. On the basis of current policies, the fifth carbon budget is seen by energy professionals as elusive.”
Ever since the UK people narrowly voted to exit the European Union, or Brexit, just over a year ago now, environmental and energy organisations and groups within and outside the UK have been concerned with the ramifications the negotiations for Brexit will have on the country’s already flagging energy and environmental policy. In January of this year — before her disastrous decision to head to the polls to solidify her position before Brexit negotiations — Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that her government would proceed with a “hard Brexit,” immediately raising concerns even higher over the impact the move will have on the country’s green economy.
Respondents to this year’s EI Energy Barometer highlighted Brexit as “a material concern for the energy system,” with experts warning that the Brexit negotiations must not be allowed to undermine effective energy policy. The respondents to the Barometer are urging the Brexit negotiators to consider continuing close cooperation between the UK and the European Union single energy market. Further, they warn of the impact restricting immigration will have on the energy sector, with 60% of respondents anticipating a fall in the availability of skilled workers if freedom of movement across borders is curtailed. While in the midst of Theresa May’s first months in office, these small cooperations might have seemed nonviable — it being completely out of line with a “hard brexit” — her new lack of standing following her loss of confidence at the polls might open up some doors for closer cooperation between the UK and the European Union.
All that remains to be seen, actually, is whether the EU allows it, not whether the UK seeks it.
Turning away from Brexit, respondents to the Barometer believe that energy efficiency is the number one priority for action, being seen as having the lowest investment risk and huge potential. It is considered to be the top priority for reducing emissions at least cost.
However, the Barometer also found that energy professionals remain skeptical that the UK will be able to meet its emissions reduction targets, if current policies are left as they are. Nearly 80% of respondents expect the UK to fall short of meeting its own fifth carbon budget, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 57% over 1990 levels by 2030.
“The stakes are high for the UK’s energy economy,” added EI Vice President and former National Grid CEO Steve Holliday FREng FEI. “The potential is there for significant industrial benefit and emission reduction at least cost to consumers and taxpayers, but sound policy making should not be drowned out by Brexit or other political upheavals.
“Energy professionals’ advice could not be stronger on putting energy efficiency at the heart of the Government’s strategy. The benefits of energy efficiency stack up for emission reduction, energy security, industrial growth and affordability.”
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(Originally appeared at our sister-site, Cleantechnica.)