Claire Coutinho MP has been elevated to the role of Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The BBC said that the promotion “marks her out instantly as a major figure in Conservative politics present and future.” She becomes the youngest government minister and the first MP from the 2019 election intake to become a minister. Coutinho was previously an advisor to Rishi Sunak at the Treasury.
Previous energy minister Grant Shapps has become Defence Minister, the fifth cabinet role he has held in less than a year.
Welcome to our new Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho👏@ClaireCoutinho will be leading our mission to build cheaper, cleaner homegrown energy and safeguard the UK’s energy security. https://t.co/QGLebjwwXa— Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (@energygovuk) August 31, 2023
Shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband said on Twitter that the ministerial changes “would not deliver the proper energy policy Britain needs.”
I congratulate Claire Coutinho on her appointment as Energy Secretary.— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) August 31, 2023
But it speaks volumes about the failures of Tory policy that we are now onto the 6th Secretary of State since 2019.
Reshuffling of the deckchairs will not deliver the proper energy policy Britain needs.
Commenting on the news, Jess Ralston, energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: “The in-tray for the new DESNZ Secretary of State is pretty full with documents that should be marked urgent. An announcement on the latest auction of the flagship renewables Contracts for Difference scheme is expected next week and may not deliver much which would leave bill payers footing the bill for failure given gas power stations are set to remain much more expensive than new offshore wind farms.”
Ralston also called for action on “flatlining” energy efficiency schemes and the delays to insulation standards in the private rental sector.
“There is a lack of clarity on the fossil fuel boiler phase-out both on and off the gas grid, and the heating industry faces losing £65 million per year in exports if we go slow on heat pumps. Despite committing to end the effective ban on onshore wind in December, the Government is still yet to make any real progress, meaning less cheap electricity on the grid which translates to higher bills,” Ralston added.
Meanwhile, RenewableUK chief executive Dan McGrail welcomed Coutinho’s appointment, said: “I’m delighted that Claire Coutinho is taking up this crucial role, at a time when the clean energy sector is facing unprecedented global economic challenges. We need urgent intervention from the new Secretary of State to re-establish the UK as the best destination for international investment in renewables, as our competitors are upping the ante and trying to lure developers and manufacturers elsewhere.”
“There is already a lot of goodwill in the sector towards Claire, who championed offshore wind in her maiden speech in 2020, highlighting our global leadership in this technology. She was also a member of the Conservative Environment Network, which champions the case for moving faster and further on renewables to deliver cheap power for consumers and strengthen our energy security. We’re looking forward to meeting her in her new role as soon as possible, to discuss new measures which will help us to strengthen the UK’s position as a world leader in clean tech, and enable the Government to reach its net zero goal on time and at the lowest cost,” McGrail added.
Coutinho said on X, formerly Twitter, that she was “delighted” with the appointment. “I will work with the Prime Minister to safeguard our energy security, reduce bills for families, and build cleaner, cheaper, homegrown energy,” she added.