10/07/2019: The week that was (w/c 1 July)

Noise levels in the sector continue to be dominated by how to translate the 2050 net zero target into practical measures, and to refocus current polices and add new ones.

The parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) kicked off a new inquiry last week into the new target, seeking written evidence by 15 August. It will look at among other things how interim targets should be set, enforced and monitored. But the committee also needs to focus on new levers to achieve this, and the technical report issued alongside the Climate Change Committee (CCC)’s advice i(which is a great piece of work) s a good place to start. The CCC’s impressive CEO Chris Stark also told the Treasury Select Committee last week that the government needs to be much more ambitious to achieve net zero by 2050.

There are, as yet, few straws in the wind as to how the government is going to set about this huge challenge. But what we do know is that, in response to calls by SSE to raise the 6GW cap for the third Contracts for Difference allocation round, interim energy minister Chris Skidmore said that the government will not be pursuing that option. To some of us, such a clear-cut and swift rebuttal came as a surprise.

The CBI also joined the debate and called for the government to use its forthcoming Energy White Paper to provide more clarity on its vision, and we also hope it does. Rumours circulate that Greg Clark is hoping the new policy proposals will appear before the final leadership vote is announced around 22 July. But I can see political obstacles to that.

The stand-out event last week was the publication of the government’s Green Finance Strategy, which at last saw the light of day and looks to be a landmark document. In it BEIS and Treasury set out plans to align private sector financial flows with clean, environmentally sustainable and resilient growth.

How it is going to do that is set out in practical terms quite well. The government is to establish a Green Finance Institute and establish Sustainable Finance Standards with the British Standards Institute. Whether establishment of a £5mn Green Home Finance Fund aimed at mainstreaming green finance products and services will crack this particular tough nut is a moot point. There will be a review of progress against objectives in 2022. In the meantime, we would expect EAC to set out its own views quite soon.

Also on the policy front BEIS also published last week the findings from its Building a Market for Energy Efficiency: Call for Evidence consultation from back in February. There appears to be broad agreement on the lack of regulatory drivers. A recurring theme is a lack of trust and quality in installations. Respondents generally thought that differences in efficiency levels are not properly reflected in property valuations, with many highlighting the need to emphasise carbon benefits arising from action.

The hard bit is now to come, with BEIS needing to translate this evidence gathering into coherent actions to supplement the Clean Growth Strategy, which was very weak generally across demand-side programmes. But nearly two years on, there still appears to be a lack of agreement on what those should be. As I argued in last week’s update, the Committee on Fuel Poverty recommendations around a domestic Challenge Fund would be a start, but it’s exactly that – a start.

On the transport electrification front, it’s a year on since the government published its Road to Zero Strategy, which was high in ambition but low on scripting: which is like most “Road to” Bob Hope films To mark the anniversary Prime Minister Theresa May asked the Office for Low Emission Vehicles to lead a review on how to build national high-speed electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and the government also announced new legislation exempting electric cars and taxis from premium rate vehicle excise duty to encourage uptake of zero emission vehicles. Expect more moves next week.

The release of the latest EV purchase statistics last week raised a few eyebrows. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders were very down beat and blamed “confusing policies and the premature removal of purchase incentives” on the fall in the sales of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (by a half between June 2018 and June 2019). But this statistic distracted from more important ones; the number of pure EVs has grown threefold in three years, and the number of purchases in June of pure EVs exceeded hybrids for the first time. While we continue to lag other leading European markets by some distance, there are some positives here.

At the local level, Community Energy Fortnight 2019 continued for its second week. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, whose office was very much involved in London Climate Action Week, called for an end to the “delaying” tactics of the government on climate action declaring a climate emergency and putting forward a Green New Deal. Liverpool also held a Climate Action Week and set out its own targets.

Back in our neck of the woods, I launched our Greater Norwich Smart Energy Community project (“Smarter Norwich”) last Wednesday, with collaborators and local stakeholders. The event was held here in Norwich in the Union Building, where some of our new solar panels were unveiled.

I am really looking forward to taking this forward with VERV Energy, RENEnergy, Haven Power and Anglian Water amongst others. There are more details on the New Anglia Energy website, and I will say a bit more about this project next week.

I also attended day 2 at the Cambridge Smart 2019 conference organised by CIR Strategy. It proved a good way of catching up with quite a few folk I have worked with in the past. The potential changes now feeding through from some of the innovation companies is mind-boggling if – big if – they are given space to develop.

Finally, here at New Anglia Energy we have grown our social media followers by nearly 40 over the past week, with some great new followers including Laura Sandys, Jenny Ashmore, Jess Britton and Bryn Kewley, who all get a nod. We have also added very credible organisations such as PRASEG, Energy for London and PassivSystems. If you have not followed @NewAngliaEnergy yet, please do, as I’m now putting out several very decent tweets a day, many with great graphics.

Plus Blackpool FC have just reappointed Simon “Larry’ Grayson as manager, so it’s been quite a good week.

Shut that door!