On Thursday 29th of November, The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is expected to publish the new Energy Bill. It should be a step towards a sustainable future for Britain but the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) believes this energy bill represents an opportunity missed.
1. Decarbonisation Targets
DECC have delayed the all important decision on decarbonisation targets. Without steadfast targets to decarbonise the power sector by 2030 the UK cannot hope to reach the level of reduced emissions agreed for 2050. David Kennedy, the CCC chief executive, said:
It is important to set [a 2030] target because investors need a signal of the direction of travel beyond 2020, without that we will not get investment now that we need. There is a high degree of policy uncertainty at the moment and that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
2. Grid Upgrades and Investment
Whilst 7.6 billion a year will go to fund low carbon energies, DECC also confirmed that UK energy bills will rise. Government funding of low carbon electricity was citied as the primary reason but Britain’s ageing energy grid needs investment regardless. Whether the energy mix is gas, nuclear or renewable many parts of the grid need upgrading and investment. Furthermore, renewables are a front-loaded investment. You pay more initially but your expenses are comparatively low. Tobi Kellner, energy modeller for Zero Carbon Britain, said:
The high proportion of cost in fossil fuel energy systems is from the price of the fuel itself while the overriding cost of clean energy is upfront capital. Expenses for renewable technologies are largely for manufacturing and skilled engineering work. This is all work that can be done in the UK by British firms. Therefore all the money spent stays in the country, except for the raw materials we cannot produce domestically, and creates jobs. The costs for constructing a renewable infrastructure over the next decade may look exorbitant compared to the current model but this is an upfront investment that will benefit the economy for years to come. Reliance on dwindling fossil fuels cannot continue.”
3. A Clear Message is Needed
To avert a global temperature rise of more than 2 degrees, the UK must reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2030. CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain report shows that a carbon neutral UK is possible by 2030.
It is imperative we take action now to avert climate change. But by pushing the date for an agreed target back to 2016, which is after the next national election, decarbonisation becomes an election issue. Instead of delaying, Britain needs strong leadership to show clear direction and tackle this grave threat head-on. As a long industrialised nation the UK must lead by example and should be doing more than the minimum required to meet its targets. We must pioneer a shift toward renewable resources, which we can continue to rely on in centuries to come – unlike rapidly dwindling fossil fuels.