The Energy Bill is currently being discussed in Parliament, with the decarbonisation target amendment drawing much of the attention. The amendment has had significant cross-party support and will most likely crystallise the debate regarding the long-term future of the how the UK sources its energy. The UK’s current carbon targets expire in 2020, and the Energy Bill in its draft format would postpone the decision to formulate a carbon budget until 2016. An open letter voices the concerns of multinational technology leaders who make the argument that targets are the bedrock for establishing economic stability to attract investment. Industry projects can take at least 3-4 years to develop before a return on investment can even be contemplated, and this coincides with the expiration of the 2020 targets. Without the certainty of targets that extend to 2030, as the amendment recommends, potential investors will not be interested.
It is strongly argued that decarbonisation targets will attract investment to kick-start the renewable energy sector with green jobs being at the forefront of economic growth. Not only will frontline green jobs be created, but also jobs in the necessary supporting industries that will supply infrastructure. Beyond the environmental advantages, the importance of taking a lead is the strategic benefits for energy security and dependency. Investing in the renewable energy sector can stabilise costs by reducing our dependency on fossil fuels with their ever-increasing price volatility. This will be in the interest of consumer’s and their household bills. Even if appropriate decarbonisation targets were to be made in 2016, the UK might have to develop renewable infrastructure off the back of countries with a more advanced industry, and therefore assume a weaker position in international trade relationships. It therefore seems a timely opportunity to ensure that renewables industries are centralised in the UK.
George Osbourne’s budget offers a worrying indication as to which direction he is betting. Gas fracking and nuclear have received his support whilst the renewables sector was once again demoted to a secondary alternative – a criticism of the original Energy Bill proposal. It seems that the strength of the Government’s intention towards building a green economy rests on the outcome of this amendment. Many influential stakeholders including industry leaders, multinationals, NGOs and charities have set the stage for a meaningful Energy Bill, by calling for the Government to bid for the right investment. A positive decision at this juncture could earn a high reward and mark the transition to energy and economies that are cleaner and greener.
Phil Aubert, The Otesha Project UK