There is little evidence measures discussed in the current policy conversation can create the step change necessary to reach net zero, according to Simon Skillings.
Writing on 29 January, the E3G Senior Associate explained that meeting the 2050 net zero target had taken the UK into new territory, both in terms of the extent of changes required and the timescales over which they have to be delivered. Noting that the basic market and regulatory structures have been designed to optimise the operation of an existing set of infrastructures rather than rapidly transform the asset base, Skillings listed key limitations of the current model as a lack of outcome focus; an inability to make “whole system” planning decisions; and efficient finance.
Delivering net zero will require a learning governance system, combined with deployment and innovation processes, said Skillings. The UK has moved from a decade of creating options to one where choices must now be made across the whole energy system, at a national and local level, meaning government must take big risks on behalf of consumers.
With a new government now elected, committed to the net zero target and having a strong parliamentary majority, Skillings said questions relating to which decisions have to be made now and which can be kept open for a later date; whether innovation spend is focussed on the important challenges; and if market and regulatory mechanisms are focused on achieving the outcomes necessary, efficiently and in the best interests of consumers, can now be addressed.
However, Skillings warned that the window for radical thinking will not remain open for long and called for now to be the time to open minds to new ideas on how we run our energy system.