With Brexit, new political dynamics and a new business and energy department, the context for UK energy policy is changing. Brexit may dominate the politics and legislative timetables, but in putting in place an energy policy fit for the 2020s and beyond, developments in this parliament will be crucial. How will Government targets and the contrasting aspects of recent policy statements play out?
The Green Paper on Industrial Strategy suggests a willingness to adopt a more active, interventionist approach. It proposes “Sector Deals” to help develop world-leading business sectors [and lift the UK economy’s sluggish productivity]. It notes the need to secure the economic benefits of the transition to a low-carbon economy. What are the opportunities and threats for energy from an industrial strategy?
An Emissions Reduction Plan, setting out plans to meet carbon reduction targets to 2032 has been delayed, but is now promised for September. But there is a big gap to meet, and a need to widen out progress beyond the power sector. And the Industrial Strategy’s emphasis is on reducing costs, and moving away from state support which has been instrumental in reducing emissions, from the power system at least, in recent years. How will the Emissions Reduction Plan stack-up in practice?
The Government recognises a need for increased infrastructure investment across the board, with the National Infrastructure Commission setting out its priorities later this year and due to deliver its first full assessment in 2018. In energy the emphasis is on ensuring the UK can meet demand and take advantage of opportunities offered by new technologies, in energy storage and electric vehicles for example. Steps towards a more flexible, responsive, consumer centric network are to be set out in an Energy Smart Systems report later in the year. But will policy be able to unlock real change and deliver new flexible options?
The inter-connectedness of industrial strategy, emission reduction commitments, and rapid technology development will provide key themes for discussion at this conference.