What’s going on with British energy and climate policy? Amber Rudd remains a minister at Department for Energy and Climate Change, but since the last election George Osborne has been micro-managing her department and now he has handed the energy side of things over to the new National Infrastructure Commission led by the ex-Labour peer Lord Adonis. Adonis appears not to have responsibility for Climate Change policy, yet deciding the infrastructure investment priorities is an absolutely critical aspect any meaningful action on Climate Change. The idea of a National Infrastructure Commission has been around for a while and in a previous version included major housing developments, which has not been included in Adonis’s brief: he is to focus on energy and transport. This may have the short term objective of the government being able to drop expensive and unpopular decisions, like Hinkley C or HS2, without losing face politically.
Meanwhile Lisa Nandy, the Labour shadow minister for energy and climate has come out in favour of decentralised and democratic energy policies, exactly as I advocated in a blog posting on 3rd September. Does she read this blog!?
Many European countries have long term and consistent energy and infrastructure policies. The National Infrastructure Commission may help Britain achieve this very useful objective. Here is my advice to Lord Adonis, just in case he happens to read this blog!!!
Britain needs an energy demand reduction strategy to promote efficiency across all sectors; house design and construction, energy generation and distribution, domestic appliances and goods of all sorts. Full end of life re-use and recycling needs to be established to create a circular economy, requiring less primary inputs of energy and resources.
100% renewable energy for electricity, heating and transport as a policy objective: promote renewables at all scales, include a much more gradual reduction in feed-in tariffs, a special focus on promoting municipal and cooperative forms of ownership, open up the market so that local generators of energy can sell it locally rather than only to the national grid, support the rapid innovation and entrepreneurial activity that already exists.
Energy storage and interconnection will need much greater investment. This includes a wide range of different energy storage technologies including pumped hydro, batteries, renewable gases etc. European grid integration is important and the planned cable linking the Norwegian grid to ours is a very useful first step, links to Iceland and to Germany would be the next logical steps.
The transport priorities should be to reduce pollution and congestion in our cities. Cycling, walking and public transport should be prioritised, and that public transport should increasingly be electric or hydrogen powered.