Uncertainty 'could hamstring UK'
Report urges bolstering of political commitment to low-carbon ambitions
Political uncertainty is damaging the UK’s low-carbon ambitions and could prevent the nation from staying within its carbon budgets, a report claims.
The UK Energy Research Centre asserts that while the UK remains committed to lofty climate change targets recent rises in energy prices, the impact of the 2008 financial crisis and heightened concerns about energy security have challenged the government’s commitment to them.
The report UK Energy Strategies Under Uncertainty features contributions from more than 30 academic experts on energy and identifies the key issues that have arisen as well as recommending strategies to tackle them.
Professor Jim Watson, Research Director of the UK Energy Research Centre and one of the lead authors, said: “For the past decade energy policy in the UK has been an increasingly delicate balancing act between reducing emissions, security and affordability.
“Policymakers are right to be sensitive to the financial pressures facing the public and businesses but action to relieve these pressures shouldn’t come at the cost of progress towards a low-carbon economy.
“Current uncertainties about the direction of UK energy policy run the very real risk of making energy less affordable, less secure and less sustainable in the long-term.”
The report recommends that the government expands energy efficiency programmes and finds that concerns of an investment ‘gap’ are overstated; there is no shortage of capital but changes to policy frameworks, market structures and business models may be needed to attract capital.
The Competition and Markets Authority inquiry into the ‘Big Six’ utilities is an important opportunity to consider the need for further market reforms, it adds.
Elsewhere, far broader engagement with the public is urged. Rather than seeking to persuade people to accept particular predetermined technologies, engagement “should involve the public in decisions about what combinations of technologies should be prioritised”, the authors say.
The report concludes that more attention should also be paid to public concerns about the structure of the energy market and who should pay for new investments that need to be made.
Image: the UK government has dented investor confidence in the energy sector (UK Parliament)