The Climate Change Committee (CCC) and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) pen a letter to the new PM “urging” her to “follow the principles laid out in the British Energy Security Strategy and the Net-Zero Strategy”
It has been just three days since Prime Minister Liz Truss stepped into her new role and already there are mounting concerns about the future of the UK’s net-zero target. These concerns come following announcements to expand oil and gas production in the North Sea and ending the moratorium on fracking to bolster the UK’s energy security and ease the cost of living crisis.
Some have also expressed concern about recent cabinet choices, in particular the appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg to Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Historically, Rees-Mogg has expressed doubt regarding the need to tackle the climate crisis and was quoted as saying the UK needed to “squeeze every last cubic inch of gas from the North Sea.”
During the leadership campaign, Truss expressed her support for the UK’s net-zero target, but was a vocal opponent of the use of agricultural land for solar farms. Recent developments have seen her appoint Conservative MP Chris Skidmore to lead a review of net-zero, which may alleviate some concerns. Mr Skidmore has been given until the end of the year to present his findings to the Prime Minister for the most efficient and fastest ways to reach the climate target.
In response to these initial concerns, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) have written a joint letter urging the PM to continue working towards the UK’s commitment of net-zero.
The letter begins by highlighting a set of “grim records” the country is currently facing, including; high-energy prices, extreme summer temperatures, a historic drought and surging inflation. It asserts that removing dependency on fossil fuels is the best approach to mitigating the current crises.
It goes on to stress that the two key areas the new PM should focus on are reducing energy waste and boosting the production of low carbon energy. The letter goes on to outline 5 actions that would support this…
Implementing plausible policies for energy efficiency
The CCC and NIC believe that investment and development of building efficiency has the potential to provide meaningful reductions in energy wastage, and support the transition to low-carbon heating methods. Examples include ground or air source heat pumps, which due to their lower heat output require more efficient buildings to be truly beneficial.
In order to achieve this, residential, commercial, and rental buildings would need to reach the minimum energy performance certificate (EPC) ratings within specific timeframes.
- Rented sector: minimum efficiency certificate of C by 2028
- Owner-occupiers: minimum efficiency certificate of C by 2035
- Businesses:minimum efficiency certificate of B by 2030
There are currently no legal requirements on a minimum EPC rating for new build homes or businesses, but rental properties must currently have a rating of at least E before tenants are allowed to move in.
However, by 2025, the government intends for all rental properties to require a EPC rating of ‘C’ or above, moving to ‘B’ or above by 2030.
Provide and promote a comprehensive energy advice service
Whilst the government’s energy advice service launched earlier this year, the letter highlights that more can be done to make the public aware of this service and help them to understand what more they can do to reduce energy consumption.
By bolstering knowledge in this area, households and businesses could implement reduction methods and drop overall usage along with costs. Additional awareness of low carbon heating methods could also help the rollout of these technologies at a much larger scale.
Deliver on a practical low carbon heat source rollout
The government is already pushing for a policy to support the rollout of heat pump technology. The authors urge this to continue moving forward with the correct level of support to ensure full delivery.
However, the letter points out a problem with the existing policy, which is the current cost of electricity relative to gas. Heat generation using low carbon methods, such as heat pumps, often run on electricity, which currently has a price almost three times higher than that of gas. It is advised that the government create more robust incentives for people to switch from gas to electricity for heating to increase adoption of these methods.
Reducing the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels will not only ensure the country’s energy security, but also help to protect the environment by reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.
Make full use of new auctions for onshore wind and solar
Renewable energy is by far the cheapest form of electricity generation, with the latest auction revealing prices for renewables were nine times cheaper than current high electricity prices set by gas generation.
The Government has already made a commitment to decarbonise the power system by 2035, but the authors encourage removing any practical barriers to ensure its speedy delivery. The installation of renewable technologies directly reduces exposure to soaring international gas prices and would support those struggling to pay their bills and are at risk of fuel poverty.
Deliver updated National Policy Statements for energy and act at pace to resolve barriers to deployment of strategic energy infrastructure
National policy statements are produced by the Government to set objectives for the development of nationally significant infrastructure in a particular sector and to provide the legal framework for planning decisions. The objectives are constantly revisited to address the most pressing demands.
The letter requests that the National Policy Statement for energy be updated as soon as possible and that efforts be made to resolve barriers to the deployment of strategic energy infrastructure.
Who are the CCC and NIC?
The Climate Change Comission (CCC), is an independent non-departmental public body, formed under the Climate Change Act to advise the UK Government on tackling and preparing for climate change. Earlier this year, they released a report assessing the UK’s infrastructure readiness when it came to climate change risks, with the aim of developing a more robust reporting method to track and mitigate future hazards.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) is the executive agency responsible for providing expert advice to the UK Government on infrastructure challenges facing the UK. The NIC works to gather views on future infrastructure needs and solutions.
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