The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is aiming to have the long-awaited energy white paper out in spring, it confirmed today.
Speaking to Current±, a BEIS spokesperson said that this was still the plan despite the COVID-19 outbreak. But as the crisis continues and resources are redirected, there is the possibility that anything unrelated to the pandemic will be “put on the back burner”.
This follows previous statements made by the government that the white paper would be released by the end of Q1 2020 rather than spring. In October, then energy secretary Andrea Leadsom said that the paper remained a work in progress but would be published by 31 March 2020, during a BEIS select committee meeting.
At the beginning on March, Baroness Bloomberg seemingly reconfirmed this date during a session at the House of Lords.
In February junior energy minister Lord Duncan stated that the long-awaited energy white paper was due to be published in “a matter of weeks”, however this never materialised.
The white paper was originally due to be published in the summer of 2019, but has been repeatedly delayed. The document is set to outline the roadmap for net zero, helping the industry to move forwards towards this now legally binding target.
However, despite the confirmation from BEIS today, many will be skeptical of this new date given the current pandemic.
Following the passing of emergency laws, Parliament is expected to close for recess this evening (25 March). This has been brought forward from 31 March, when the break for Easter was expected to take place.
MPs are set to vote on a return to work on 21 April, meaning they will not convene for almost a month. As such, it seems likely that the release of the white paper will be once again pushed back.
Currently all non-essential parliamentary resources are being redirected in an effort to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, further throwing the publication of the paper into doubt.