More hurly-burly last week. A new PM, a new business secretary Andreas Leadsom (with previous experience as minister of energy), and a clean sweep of BEIS ministers. Kwasi Kwarteng and Jo Johnson both become Ministers of State, with the former taking on the energy brief. And, in what most commentators agreed was a smart move, former Minister Claire Perry becomes COP26 President.
There were fewer positive comments about Theresa Villiers becoming secretary of state at Defra. Grant Shapps takes over at the Transport Department, and Robert Jenrick moves to Housing, Communities and Local Government. Greg Clark, a staunch opponent of a No Deal Brexit, left the government altogether.
The new Prime Minister made his first statement to the Commons, refusing to declare a climate emergency, saying instead that the UK government was leading the world in setting a net zero emissions target for 2050. And overall the media has been keen to highlight the green credentials of several key ministers but qualifying this by explaining that there will be little ministerial time in the next parliamentary session for anything other than Brexit.
There was, as expected, no Energy White Paper. BEIS committee chair Rachel Reeves wrote to the new business secretary saying the committee was looking forward to the publication of the white paper later this summer and asking for a review by Treasury of the benefits of net zero. She also called for the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles to move forward from 2040 to 2032, a role for new carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) clusters by 2025, and the removal of the ban on developing onshore wind in England and designation of energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority. These proposed changes all make a lot of sense.
Parliament is now in recess until early September. If the white paper does materialise, it is not expected before mid-autumn now, and I am assuming early 2020 is now more realistic if the government lasts that long.
But BEIS did publish several important consultations allowing us all to get stressed out while ministers go on their summer holidays. They covered areas such as:
· Regulated Asset Base funding for new nuclear, and how allocation of construction and operational risks should be shared between investors
· regulatory and market frameworks for CCUS, alongside a report by my colleagues at Cornwall Insight and WSP, commissioned by BEIS, to review the market-based frameworks
· a call or evidence on barriers and new routes to market for energy efficiency, including on the role of aggregators
· a consultation on the Capacity Mechanism and on implementing the recast EU Electricity Regulation
· long-awaited proposals to update the government’s Fuel Poverty Strategy in England from 2015 to meet the existing fuel poverty target
· the need for a flexible, engaged retail market (yes please), and
· proposals for substantial energy industry code reform.
There were also announcements on funding for small and advanced modular reactors, support for heavy industry to decarbonise and reusing oil and gas infrastructure for carbon capture
BEIS also, last week, launched a consultation on changes to the current Energy Company Obligation (ECO3) scheme.
And debate on the need to coordinate policy and develop better governance around net zero Departmental ownership is essential, according to Lord Deben (formerly John Gummer) Committee on Climate Change Chairman, who gave evidence in front of MPs on the Environmental Audit Select Committee. We agree.
Meanwhile, to get some headlines of his own, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn announced plans to “ramp up investment” in green industries and deliver a £3.5bn investment in the Mersey Tidal Power Project. What will happen to the ferry? More seriously it’s hard to see why this project should get more air time than the Severn Barrage, which has already been rejected by this government on cost grounds. And Rebecca Long-Bailey (predictably) slagged off the government for not publishing the White Paper.
On the transport front two significant moves were announced. The government announced its £80mn ‘Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund: Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge’ on 25 July, covering various different sectors. It said it will accelerate the UK’s ability to deliver the supply chains required to enable electrification in the automotive, aerospace, energy, industrial, marine, off highway and rail sectors and deliver the UK’s carbon reduction targets. But projects should address commercial opportunities in ideally more than one of those sectors. In a related move there is also up to £19mn from the same fund to invest in projects that support the creation, development and scale-up of supply chains in power electronics, machines and drives.
On the home front, we continue to make progress on my change proposal to the BSC, P379. There were two full days of meeting last week, one on the basic process model and one on the metering and measurement implications. Both made progress and the group – which remains very engaged and providing a high level of constructive challenge – continues to make progress. That said, there remains some way to go.