Redefining certainty

18th March 2013

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Mitigation ,
  • Generation



After listening to a debate on the inclusion of a decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill, Sarah-Jayne Russell asks if policy certainty, particularly on environmental issues, is possible.

At a recent debate on the merits of setting a 2030 decarbonisation target for electricity, one of the panel argued against introducing such a goal into the Energy Bill, saying: “We must not get caught in an endless search for certainty.”

Yet, the EEF and CBI frequently ask government for certainty, particularly when it comes to energy and carbon policy. But is it really possible? If Decc’s plans for payments under the renewable heat initiative (RHI) are anything to go by, the answer is only when laden heavily with caveats.

To avoid a repeat of the feed-in tariff fiasco, where abrupt changes to subsidies left it on the losing side of a High Court case, the energy department has created a system for RHI payments that will see increasingly dramatic cuts to subsidies if uptake of technologies is higher than expected.

With different trigger levels for different technologies, plus one for the whole scheme, the RHI is the model for a new kind of certainty: at one extreme the system could see subsidies cut by 57% in 12 months; at the other, nothing will happen at all.

But perhaps the real issue is not a lack of certainty, but the creation of uncertainty.

As IEMA pointed out following the publication of the second, and last, performance league table for the carbon reduction commitment energy efficiency scheme (CRC), by pledging to review the CRC in 2016, the government has undermined what certainty it had brought about by shifting the scheme to a straightforward carbon tax.

The same can be said of a government that outlines strategies to support renewable technologies through long-term contracts for difference in the Energy Bill, but then puts off setting an electricity decarbonisation target and, at the same time, publishes a gas-generation strategy that predicts the construction of significant new capacity by 2030.

While certainty may be a big ask, without at least a clear indication of where the government sees future energy and carbon policies, it is seems unlikely that firms will make the big investments needed now to move the UK towards being a low-carbon economy.

Transform articles

Local authorities could have saved Green Homes Grant

The Green Homes Grant is set to deliver only a fraction of the jobs and improvements intended, leading to calls for more involvement from local authorities in future schemes.

23rd September 2021

Read more

COVID-19 recovery packages have largely focused on protecting, rather than transforming, existing industries, and have been a “lost opportunity” for speeding up the global energy transition.

23rd September 2021

Read more

None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.

30th July 2021

Read more

The UK’s pipeline for renewable energy projects could mitigate 90% of job losses caused by COVID-19 and help deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. That is according to a recent report from consultancy EY-Parthenon, which outlines how the UK’s £108bn “visible pipeline” of investible renewable energy projects could create 625,000 jobs.

30th July 2021

Read more

Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

30th July 2021

Read more

The oil and gas industry is set to burn through its allocated carbon budget 13 years early unless decisive action is taken immediately, new analysis has found.

22nd July 2021

Read more

The UK will no longer use unabated coal to generate electricity from October 2024, one year earlier than originally planned, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has announced.

2nd July 2021

Read more

The UK government is not on track to deliver on its promise to improve the environment within a generation and is failing to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, a damning new report from MPs has revealed.

1st July 2021

Read more

Renewable energy will account for nearly 40% of the world's power mix by the end of this decade, overtaking coal within the next few years, according to research by GlobalData.

24th June 2021

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert