An open letter to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Energy for Humanity
14 June 2017
Congratulations on being reappointed to run BEIS. We really value your achievements and your commitment to the energy and climate change agenda.
You should be proud that, under your watch, the UK is breaking records on carbon intensity & has had its first coal free days since the industrial revolution. Just this week, National Grid reported that large amounts of wind, solar, and nuclear pushed UK carbon intensity to record lows of around 90 gCO₂/kWh. That carbon intensity figure falls in line with power sector emissions targets established within the fifth carbon budget, recommended by the Committee on Climate Change in 2015 and legislated for last year by your predecessor Amber Rudd. But while that record low of 90g CO2 is within those targets, National Grid confirmed that the average emissions for the last seven days equated to around 187g, indicating that there is still work to be done.
Clean energy is a priority not only because of our legally binding commitments to tackle climate change. The global race is on to deploy clean energy, including wind, wave and tidal energy, as well as solar and nuclear as a means of powering our economy. We need your leadership to maintain a stable policy framework to enable investment in clean energy that will power economic growth, innovation and job creation, and create global export opportunities.
In the UK, we are fortunate that all main political parties recognise the urgent need to provide clean, affordable power for consumers. Since May 2010, we’ve installed more than 11 gigawatts of wind energy, enough to power more than 7.8 million homes. On a mid-summer day last week, at around noon, solar generated a record breaking 8.75GW, supplying nearly 25% of the UK’s total demand.
In these uncertain times, it’s vital to keep our eyes on the horizon and steer an even keel. Wind, solar and nuclear are together a force to be reckoned with on our journey to decarbonisation. Despite progress in carbon reduction, Government support is needed for businesses to innovate, drive costs down further, improve productivity and maintain UK skills and capabilities to meet domestic energy needs whilst also competing successfully in global markets.
Replacing coal is one step on the pathway to deep decarbonisation. Our air needs to be cleaner and one way we will achieve that is through electrification of transport. How can we expand electricity generation significantly – potentially to double or treble capacity? This must be done in ways that are supported by the public and that bring wider benefits to the environment and to the economy.
Next generation technologies will play an important role. It’s time to release the £500m budget as part of Mission Innovation. To maximise the potential of innovation at home we need to collaborate internationally on licensing regimes that can create and open up new markets. New sites are needed, alongside increased regulatory capability and capacity. Focus on cost reduction strategies for nuclear that do not necessarily depend on technological fixes. Technology agnostic strategies are needed to improve efficiency in build to reduce delays, improve productivity, increase certainty and quality in scheduling, project management and delivery.
We should celebrate success to date. By keeping a steady course, current pathways outlined will help meet the domestic energy needs. But to help build UK industry as an export leader into world markets Government must also invest at home and ensure ongoing support for international frameworks.
As UK disentangles from the EU, we may also need to submit our own Nationally Determined Contribution outlining our intended climate actions under the UNFCCC processes. Industry will also wish to understand whether the UK will still be able to participate in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). Exiting Euratom cannot disrupt necessary movement of people and goods upon which 20% of our existing electricity supply depends, not to mention nuclear new build, and supply chains for medical isotopes used in diagnosing and treating cancer. Increasing interconnectivity with continental Europe through participation in the Energy Union project will necessarily require co-operation with the EU internal energy market in any Brexit scenario.
Thank you for maintaining support for the Climate Change Act and for the Paris Agreement. Continuity of this kind helps to maintain investor confidence and deliver infrastructure that is vital to our country’s prosperity in future.
Wish you luck!