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Energy Policy Set To Be A Battle Ground In UK Election

Peter McCusker, Newcastle Chronicle

The cost of energy and policies on climate change will come under the spotlight as the UK goes to the polls

AS the decade-long political consensus on UK energy policy fractures, Peter McCusker hears certainty is an industry priority after next month’s Election.

THE Climate Change Act, which was approved by all but five of Britain’s 650 MPs, set the UK on the path to decarbonisation and a decade later the UK lead global efforts to cut emissions.

Just last week the UK became the first major industrialised nation to generate power without coal for a 24 hour period – but, since the Conservative election win in 2015, there have been signs of a policy shift.

Subsidies have been drastically reduced for solar power and onshore wind and we recently reported a senior civil servant say the Government’s new Industrial Strategy would put the emphasis on keeping prices down.

Meanwhile Climate Change Minister Nick Hurd last week said the Government’s Clean Growth Plan remains ‘on hold’ due to the ‘fantastically complex and challenging’ nature of the process, Brexit and the Election.

This uncertainty has spooked investors, says Rachel Anderson, head of policy and representation at the North East England Chamber of Commerce.

“To replace our ageing energy infrastructure and invest in new technologies it will require investment from both the public and private sectors.

“There is evidence to suggest that private sector investment is there but the uncertainty of Government policy over the past few years has made it difficult to plan for investment and calculate returns.

“A settled policy which identifies a clear approach to the development of generation policy and clear replacements for Feed in Tariffs would be welcome,” she said.

Jon Ferris, strategy director at Tyneside firm Utilitywise, expects the diverging political priorities to be reflected in the Manifesto commitments.

He said: “While the Conservative Government has been talking about making energy prices the key element of the trilemma, we would expect more of a focus on energy efficiency from the other main parties.”

Paul Verrill, director of Teesside-based energy data monitoring specialist EnAppSys, says the Conservative focus on price ‘will be detrimental to renewables and emerging technologies’.

He said: “It implies that there is a cost limit to how far they are prepared to go to meet their climate change commitments.

“We believe this will be at odds with other parties that will see as false economy a softening of commitments on climate change on economic grounds. Wholesale prices are only 50% of the cost of energy, network costs are a significant part of the cost but have yet to be tackled in a comprehensive manner.”

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