The official opening of Parliament saw a new Energy Bill introduced in the face of fresh cuts on energy efficiency funding, whilst the Government reaffirmed its position on climate change.
Although the overall focus on green business was minimal, the Queen’s Speech highlighted energy security and climate change as important parts of the new Government’s policy agenda.
A new Energy Bill which will “ensure there will be affordable and reliable energy for businesses and families” was one of the Government’s key announcements.
The Energy Bill will establish an Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) tasked with maximising the recovery of UK oil and gas, as well as put into law the Conservative’s controversial pledge to devolve the final say on planning permission for onshore wind farms to local authorities.
With the focus firmly on increasing energy supply, measures to improve energy security through energy efficiency received no mention in the announcements.
“Energy efficiency represents one of the most cost-effective means of reducing our emissions and contributes to the UK’s energy security, yet it remains on the Government’s blind side”, commented Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council.
Despite a Conservative manifesto pledge to insulate a million more homes by 2020, the energy efficiency industry will be alarmed at the news that over half of the £70 million of cuts imposed on the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) this year are set to come from funding for energy efficiency schemes, such as the Green Deal.
The Green Deal is already in the firing line elsewhere after the European Court of Justice ruled on 4 June that the current reduced rate of VAT on energy-saving materials installed in UK homes is unlawful.
In a bid to revitalise energy efficiency policy, a coalition of green industry groups has now proposed a ‘Cost Effective Energy Measures’ Bill, arguing that the UK could save £12 billion a year by drawing up a new national strategy to improve energy efficiency in buildings.
On the subject of climate change, the Government reaffirmed its ambition to achieve a strong unilateral agreement at the landmark UN climate summit in Paris this December, stating that “a global commitment on climate change will open [up] new opportunities for our low carbon industries”.
Speaking in Paris after a meeting with the French President, the Prime Minister said: “I’m fully behind President Hollande’s efforts to reach an agreement at the summit here in Paris in December.
“The UK is already playing its part, but we need to do more to get the private sector involved. That’s why we’ll put £50 million of our existing climate funding towards a new international initiative that will back new technologies for a clean energy economy.”
On 8 June, the Prime Minister joined other G7 leaders in Germany to declare that the global economy must be decarbonised over the course of this century.
The G7 Summit also set out plans for a G7-Alliance on Resource Efficiency to collaborate with businesses, SMEs and stakeholders to promote resource efficiency and foster innovation.