Last week Brevia Energy released the findings of its audit of the Government’s 2020 Energy White Paper. The results, which were covered by Energy Live News, highlighted how nearly half of the commitments included in the Energy White Paper have been hit or look likely to be reached. However, the research also showed that answers to the ‘Who Pays?’ question remain needed. With the Government expected to publish both its Net Zero Strategy and Heat and Buildings strategy soon, greater detail on that may be soon forthcoming. That is likely to provoke debate about the direction of policy and open new fronts for businesses to make their case about how the net zero transition should be delivered.
The Government is likely to start addressing unfilled pledges but that won’t end the argument
One of the key commitments the Government is yet to fulfil, which the Brevia Energy White Paper audit brought attention to, is: ‘We will publish a call for evidence by April 2021 to begin a strategic dialogue between government, consumers and industry on affordability and fairness.’
The need for this dialogue with the General Public has been highlighted by the current wholesale gas price spike, which will see bills rise for domestic energy consumers. It is likely that the Government will attempt to cushion the cost of the energy transition by outlining a step-by-step approach to achieving it. This contrasts with a ‘big bang’ approach of mandating sudden changes.
Yet it is likely even that will prove contentious. Even businesses that find themselves feeling positive by the direction of travel, which will be staked out by the expected government policy positions, should not feel like the debate is over. As long as there are votes at play, and a surrounding narrative about the cost of living, there is always the possibility that a gradual move may slow to being a glacial move.
Industry should not take any announcement as bankable and be mindful of the need to keep working towards its desired end
This brings me to a second yet to be fulfilled promise the Brevia Energy White Paper audit put the spotlight on: ‘We will consult on whether it is appropriate to end gas grid connections to new homes being built from 2025, in favour of clean energy alternatives.’
The likelihood is that the Government will signal its intent to do this soon. However, a consultation, while often indicative of what the Government is thinking, does not always lead to action. Industry players must look upon any upcoming announcements as reasons to intensify their engagement with Government, to steer it towards the outcome that gives business the confidence to invest.
Moreover, they must act quickly as there is a chance the Prime Minister will go for an election in 2023. Doing so would mean 2022 will see the start of the election cycle. Once that begins anything that is not vote winning is likely to be paused until the result is known.
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