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Brexit cannot avert the ‘fundamental issue’ of energy transition, utilities warn

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Energy companies are lacking any kind of certainty over Brexit and how it will affect the sector, but cannot allow it to have any impact on the “fundamental issue” of climate change and the energy transition, some of Europe’s leading utilities have said.

While the issue of Brexit elicited groans from most of the audience at the Solar & Storage Live exhibition, the subject was unavoidable when the surrounding context of the energy transition and the future of energy trading in the UK was discussed.

During the opening keynote discussion on the future of the energy transition, Matthew Billson, head of strategy for energy innovation at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), was quizzed over how Brexit could stymie the progress the UK had made towards decarbonisation.

Billson defended the government’s track record on decarbonisation, insisting that the UK still led the G7 on decarbonising its economy, but did acknowledge that leaving the European Union – deal or no deal – may influence investor confidence when it came to clean energy.

He did, however, comment that amidst the continuing uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the government had stuck to a domestic agenda that included legislating for a net-zero target by 2050.

Utilities would appear to be just as much in the dark as other energy market participants. Frank Meyer, senior vice president for global B2C solutions and emobility at E.On, said that it was difficult for him to answer questions on Brexit as he lacked “any kind of transparency on the issue”.

Emeka Chukwureh, director of energy markets and strategy for the UK and Ireland at Enel X, meanwhile, spoke of his frustration over the potential disruption a no-deal Brexit could have on Ireland’s Single Electricity Market (SEM), a venture that only launched in October of last year and one Enel X had a vested interest in.

The government’s hotly contentious Project Yellowhammer report included BEIS assumptions that a no-deal Brexit could cause a “rapid” split in the SEM and cross-border energy trading, resulting in spiking domestic energy prices and difficulty for market participants. Those impacts stood to be significantly damaging from a political perspective.

But Chukwureh said it was important for the sector to put aside any Brexit-related uncertainty and focus on the fundamentals of the energy transition.

“We have to make it work… Brexit’s a big issue, I get it, but we still have to deal with the fundamental issue [of the climate crisis] that’s facing all of us,” Chukwureh said.

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