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Energy announcement

Cutting bills needs energy devolution not price cap

Published on: 12 October 2017

Experts have criticised the Government’s energy price cap as a quick fix not a sustainable way to cut bills and drive clean, green growth.

Responding to today’s announcement, Newcastle University’s Professor Phil Taylor together with leading players from the public, private and voluntary sectors, say that instead, the Government should strip the ‘Big 6’ of energy efficiency responsibilities and devolve the proceeds to local energy players.

“Low carbon energy transitions are essential if we are to stand any chance of keeping climate change within 1.5 oC warming,” explains Professor Taylor, Director of the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration at Newcastle University.

“We are making progress but it is still too slow and often too focussed on electricity and top down national initiatives which don’t account for regional differences.

“Instead, we need to use a whole systems approach to energy transitions. If we get this right, we will not only protect the environment, we will create thousands of new jobs and inward investment.”

Clean Growth Strategy

Setting out a clean growth strategy for the North of England following a 12 month study, the Northern Energy Task Force (NETF) says that devolving the carbon budget to the region as part of Clean Growth Plan could create up to 100,000 jobs and add £15 billion to the economy.

The report recommends:

  • Central government strips the big 6 suppliers of energy efficiency responsibilities and hands councils and energy networks powers and funding for ‘local energy deals’ to make homes greener; roll-out solar panels, and help businesses become more environmentally sustainable
  • The North of England is handed responsibility for its share of the UK’s carbon budget in a bid to help it manage its historical industrial base and incentivise green growth opportunities. Over time it would gain more powers over regulation and funding in return for progress.
  • Creating a new Northern Energy Accelerator to fund research and innovative green projects.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for energy systems,” explains Professor Taylor.

“We need different blends of techniques, technologies and business models in different regions and therefore devolution of the responsibility, necessary resources and rewards from a low carbon transition should be devolved to regions.

“Cities and regions are uniquely placed to take a whole systems approach as they have a holistic view of the needs of their community with respect to the interlinked issues of heating, power, energy, housing, transport, air quality and fuel poverty.

“Decoupling the often conflicting responsibility for energy efficiency from organisations whose core business is to sell many units of energy and making it the responsibility of regions and cities could also be very helpful in reducing energy demand.”

Whitehall policy failing the North

Based on extensive research with key players in the sector across the North of England, as well as consultation within the sector, the strategy sets out a detailed vision to make the most of its energy assets.

It warns, however, that Whitehall policy has not been effective in helping the North adapt, being too far removed from growth opportunities.

The report reccommends:

  •  More flexible approaches to energy pricing and supply for key energy intensive foundation industries in the North;
  •  A new Northern Low Carbon Homes commitment;
  •  More rapid progress on carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen-for-heat demonstrator programmes;
  •  Creation of a new Energy for the North body, like Transport for the North, to oversee the development and implementation of the strategy and take legal responsibility for the Northern Carbon Budget.

The strategy also identifies detailed action plans for a wide range of other renewable energy technologies such as offshore wind, tidal and bio-energy schemes.

Sir John Harman, chair of the Northern Energy Taskforce and former Environment Agency chair, said:

“If government is going to make further progress on the Paris agreement it requires a step-change in its approach.

“For instance, devolving carbon budgets would mean the North is responsible for its own destiny and turn a national policy-headache into northern prosperity, creating up to 100,000 of tomorrow’s green jobs.

“If it’s serious about spreading growth across the country, while meeting decarbonisation goals, the government must take this issue seriously and give the North of England real powers to kick-start a local energy revolution.”


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