18/07/2019: The week that was (w/c 8 July)

The euphoria surrounding the introduction and passage of the legislation for 2050 net zero target has proved short lived, and the government has been pushed very much onto the back foot following the publication of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC)’s 2019 scorecard last week on progress to attainment of existing carbon budgets.

This annual progress report reported a significant shortfall policy action, with a substantial gap between current plans and future requirements. It issued a stern warning that the UK’s credibility on climate change is resting on the action the government takes over the next 18 months. Specifically, the CCC found that the government had delivered just one of 25 key policies necessary to steer emissions reductions back on track, while action to prepare homes, businesses and the natural environment for increased temperatures is now less ambitious than it was 10 years ago.

Again though government has indicated something that it won’t do: Lord Henley speaking on behalf of BEIS has also the government will not be reviewing its policy on onshore wind.

It is not surprising then that the CBI called for the government to use its forthcoming Energy White Paper to provide more clarity on its vision. There had been rumours that Greg Clark is hoping the new policy proposals will appear before the Recess. But press reports over the weekend suggested that Chancellor Philip Hammond is vetoing early publication because of concerns that its publication now might commit the new incumbent of Number 10 to inappropriate spending commitments. So the likelihood now is on proposals for a new nuclear funding model imminently with the white paper following later.

I am pleased to see interest is rightly growing around bolstering governance around climate change policy. The CCC itself has little to say on this other than asking for the prime minister to set up a “climate cabinet.” But IGov based at the Exeter Energy Policy Group has set out an interesting suite of proposals.

The group has proposed the creation of an Energy Transformation Commission to work alongside the CCC. It also advocates a new statutory duty to be placed on local authorities and a devolution of carbon budgets to address a mismatch between developments focused on local energy systems and the governance structures that enable and support change, which I strongly support. IGov also called for local authorities to be obligated to prepare Local Transformation Plans (LTPs). These would be aligned with the devolution of carbon budgets at a local level and look to integrate decarbonisation into local planning.

BEIS was given another rebuke last week, this time by its select committee. The focus of its concerns was the inadequacies of domestic energy efficiency policy. We had been expecting an overhaul since the Clean Growth Strategy over 18 months ago but progress has been very slow.

But it is clear that the whole focus of energy efficiency in the built environment needs reinvigorating. As an interim measure, while government works out how to sharpen its focus, adoption of the Committee on Fuel Poverty recommendations around a domestic Challenge Fund would be a start, but it’s exactly that – a start.

Elsewhere National Grid ESO issued its Future Energy Scenarios report, highlighting that net zero by 2050 requires immediate action and the need for greater coordination across the whole energy system, with digitisation and data becoming a critical enabler. It also set out guidelines for the three Capacity Auctions scheduled for 2020, setting out the amount of capacity to be procured in each.

It continues to be very frantic on the transport electrification front, and it’s now a year on since the government published its Road to Zero Strategy, which was high in ambition but low on specific near-term measures.

To mark the anniversary Prime Minister Theresa May responded to a request by the National Infrastructure Commission and asked the Office for Low Emission Vehicles to lead a review on how to build national high-speed electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The government has also confirmed that all zero emission vehicles will pay no company car tax in 2020-21, 1% in 2021-22, and then return to the planned 2% rate in 2022-23. Added to this, the government has announced that all future government-funded charge points must be smart, and that all new rapid charge-points must offer card payment by 2020.

I am continuing to develop the ideas around Smarter Norwich following last week’s successful launch. We have over 40 expressions of interest for the Engagement Group that will receive the Verv smart energy assistant and I am confident we will shortly hit the initial 50 target for October start up. We have also confirmed the five sites for locating our Powervault storage batteries. It is looking increasingly likely that we will be looking for further households and businesses to host a second wave of devices from April next year, and I am also starting talks with Moixa to take a further five batteries from that date.

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