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Brexit and ‘insufficient’ energy policy among leading power sector concerns

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Brexit has become one of the leading concerns for energy professionals according to a new survey carried out by the Energy Institute (EI), which also found that the majority of those asked expect the UK to fall short of its carbon targets as a result of poor energy policy.

The Energy Barometer, which each year surveys EI members to gauge the mood across the industry, found an ‘overriding message’ that clear energy policy is needed, and that it should not be eclipsed by Brexit, change of government or other emergent factors.

Many commented that the UK’s exit from the EU is deemed to be a “material concern to the sector” due to the uncertain future of current policy set by the EU. EI members have therefore urged those negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU to pay particular attention to energy policy, regulation and trade agreements, energy costs, and security of supply.

While this has been mentioned as an early point of discussion within the talks, it remains unclear how much of the current regulations will be permanently transposed to UK law following Brexit. The EI members have said that UK regulations should, in most cases, at the very least be informed by existing EU legislation.

Professor Jim Skea CBE FEI, president of EI, said: “The call for a predictable, no-surprises policy environment is reinforced in the 2017 Energy Barometer with clear advice to those negotiating Brexit. Workforce availability and the smooth transition of energy and climate change laws need to be priorities."

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The expected impacts of Brexit on the energy sector. Image: Energy Institute.

However, continued political uncertainty aside from Brexit has also continued to be found, with over half of the almost 1,000 EI members asked claiming UK energy policy has no effect or a negative effect on the sector.

Last year’s survey concluded that the continuity of energy policy was considered to be the biggest challenge facing the sector and the latest results have continued to place this at the top of the list. Policy is still perceived as “uncertain, inconsistent and short term” while contributing to “a risky investment climate”, which low carbon technologies affected the most.

This has led to renewed fears over the UK’s ability to meet its carbon targets set out to 2050. Respondents claimed additional support for energy efficiency and renewables could help close the perceived carbon policy gap, and also represent the best opportunity to reap economic benefits from the low carbon transition.

Progress towards renewables and decarbonisation goals should be at least be maintained, and ideally scaled up according to EI members.

Skea added: “The Barometer also reflects the need for ministers to bring forward a credible Clean Growth Plan to demonstrate how they intend to course-correct the UK’s emission reduction efforts. On the basis of current policies, the fifth carbon budget is seen by energy professionals as elusive.”

Newly appointed climate change minister Claire Perry announced yesterday that the Clean Growth Plan, expected to provide a road map to meeting the requirements of the fifth carbon budget, will be published once Parliament returns from summer recess on 5 September.

This will be over a year later than it was originally expected to be published, with Perry stating the delay was due to Brexit, the general election and the withdrawal of the USA from the Paris climate change agreement.

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