Spotlight Activity: UK Energy White Paper
The UK Government’s current energy policy is based off the 2007 Energy White Paper. This policy was then complemented by the Low Carbon Transition Plan of 2009. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which was created three years ago as part of the Government restructuring and is now responsible for the implementation of the policy, has recently declared that a new Energy Paper will be unveiled by July 2019.
The original 2007 Energy White Paper aimed at 4 main goals:
- Cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2050
- Maintain sustainable energy resources
- Promote competitive markets for new energy sources
- Ensure affordable heating
The paper recognized the natural richness of UK renewable resources – wind and marine tidal streams – planning to use renewable resources to tackle the double dilemma of supply security and carbon emission reduction. The 2007 Paper ought to be considered a remarkable achievement in vision for the time it was written, especially due to its analysis of the lack of financial incentives for energy companies to invest in costly technology–and its attempt to obviate this through the Responsible Obligation (RO) scheme – and of the accessibility barrier represented by a lack of infrastructure to access renewable energy.
Unfortunately, the brilliant analysis of the White Paper has not been supplemented by a consistent implementation policy by the Governments of the UK. In spite of the early leading role that the UK had taken in reducing its carbon footprint, the energy market has stagnated in the last few years due to misguided financial policies which have failed to promote the adoption of renewable sources of energy by private households.
The 2018 Energy Report shows that investment in oil and gas extraction was considerably higher in 2011-2015, and returned to pre-2010 levels in the last 3 years. This confirms the accusation that the Government has not followed through consistently with the declared policy of de-carbonization. Moreover, while the percentage of renewable energy doubled between 2000 and 2017 from 9.4% to 18.7%, nuclear energy remains the number one renewable source (7.9%), while marine tidal power and wind energy, which were isolated in the original 2007 White Paper, have barely increased (2.2% for wind and 0.3% for hydro as of 2017). The future of clean energy in the UK looked even bleaker when the Government imposed an ‘effective ban; in 2018 on on-shore wind turbines.
In 2019, however, such a gap between policy design and implementation is not excusable anymore. This is because of the drastic reduction in the costs of renewable technology. This has been acknowledged by the Permanent Secretary of BEIS in a speech anticipating the new 2019 energy policy, in which he promised an increased privatization of the energy market to promote cheaper and cleaner energy. The problem of lack of access to clean energy markets may persist for a longer time still, if the Government will fail to couple privatization policies with significant capital investment in infrastructures accessible in all parts of the country.
Status: Right Direction
The conception of the policy is very solid, and the UK has been moving in the right direction overall with a reduction of carbon emission, if not at the expected pace. The major problems are lack of political will to implement the policy consistently and a shortcoming in investment and planning in the necessary infrastructure to sustain clean energy markets.
Please send the following message to the policymaker(s) below.
To the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, The Rt Hon Claire Perry MP,
We commend the Government for promptly responding to the current shortcomings of the UK energy markets as highlighted by the 2018 Energy Report. We believe in the importance of drafting a new Energy White Paper, as the BEIS Permanent Secretary has announced it will do in 2019. We support Your acknowledgement of renewable energy as the clean and cheap future, however we wish to urge Your Department to consider implementing a rigorous scheme of infrastructure investment alongside with the outlined market policies to ensure accessibility to clean energy markets to all the country.
Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, The Rt Hon Claire Perry MP
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 7050 Fax: 0207 219 1385
Alex Chisholm, Permanent Secretary at BEIS, speaks on 2019 energy policy: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/energy-policy-now-and-the-direction-its-headed
Summary of Chisholm’s speech: https://renews.biz/50090/uk-to-publish-energy-white-paper-in-2019/
Critique of current policy direction based on 2018 Energy Report: