In the rush to end the parliamentary session, two important but little-noticed select committee reports were published: the Commons Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee’s report on energy policy, and the Lords Science and Technology Committee’s report on nuclear research and technology. The two reports highlight vital energy issues. Investing in new low-carbon energy infrastructure is critical: without new investment, the UK will struggle to keep the lights on – not to mention meet its emission targets. Policy uncertainty hinders this process. It is therefore vital that the next government reduces it as far as possible to ensure that the costs of these investments are manageable. There are two critical steps the next government must take: The biggest Brexit energy question is how long the UK will remain part of Euratom, the nuclear research, training, and regulatory body. This matters. Policy uncertainty means investors will either decrease or delay investment, or ‘price in’ uncertainty by seeking a higher return which, ultimately, means higher taxation or higher energy bills. Uncertainty is particularly important in energy because we rely heavily on private finance to support investment in energy infrastructure. According to the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s pipeline, 95% of planned energy investment over the next five years is to be financed by the private sector, which is much higher than in other sectors. Failure to commit to a civil nuclear strategy – a plan for domestic nuclear power – will hinder the UK’s ability to develop low-carbon energy. Much like it has with the institutions required for a successful industrial strategy, the UK has procrastinated on whether to support small modular reactors– nuclear power plants with outputs of 300MWe or less, designed for mass manufacture. Given their development costs, these reactors require government support. But investors and industry have been left in the dark. Rolls Royce, for example, are still seeking clarity from BEIS on whether a competition for designs – initially planned for completion in Autumn 2016 – will go ahead.
Institute for Government 4th May 2017 read more »
Negative emissions tech: can more trees, carbon capture or biochar solve our CO2 problem?
Guardian 5th May 2017 read more »