With news headlines still dominated by the coronavirus crisis, energy users could be forgiven for thinking energy is off the government’s radar screen at the moment. But in fact, quite a lot has been going on behind the scenes as ministers and civil servants start ramping up plans for radical decarbonisation of the entire UK energy system. It has been a running joke in Westminster for some time, well before the current crisis, to speculate when the much-promised Energy White Paper would finally be published. In fact, the government published a raft of papers and consultations last year on a number of matters which give clues on what might eventually emerge, and more last month in relation to renewable heat. Critics might say the important stuff has yet to be decided, but the sense of direction is clear. The initial focus on electricity decarbonisation has already seen record levels of wind and solar generation and coal use cut to levels not seen for more than a hundred years. Something similar will have to follow for heat – probably a combination of electrification with hydrogen for certain industrial and possibly other processes – the mix of which cannot easily be determined until trials are underway and the results properly understood, which will take time. Transport is likewise starting the journey towards electrification, but local distribution grids and charging infrastructure will require major investment for electric vehicles to reach their potential. The phase-out of new petrol and diesel engine vehicles by the mid-2020s has already been announced but will not be enough on its own. There’s little point speculating further about a publication date. Labour Leader Keir Starmer has made some interesting appointments to his front bench team, retaining highly experienced Shadow Minister Alan Whitehead but also bringing back former Energy Secretary Ed Miliband. In addition, acting Lib Dem leader Ed Davey is also a former Energy Secretary, adding to the depth of expertise on the opposition benches. Ministers are, therefore, likely to have a rather tougher time at the dispatch box than was the case in the previous Parliament, although the new generation of MPs on both sides will also have an influence. Many of the new Conservative MPs are more relaxed about climate policy than their (older) predecessors and generally less sceptical about technologies like onshore wind, where it is sensitively deployed.
Energy Live News 11th Aug 2020 read more »