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New energy secretary Alok Sharma welcomed by industry, but has ‘a lot of work to do’

Image: Gov.uk.

Image: Gov.uk.

Leadership of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has changed hands, with Alok Sharma appointed energy secretary.

Sharma is taking over from Andrea Leadsom, who is leaving the role following the latest cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In a social media post on Twitter, Sharma said: “Delighted to be appointed as Secretary of State for @beisgovuk and Minister for @Cop26. Looking forward to an exciting year ahead.”

The change in leadership comes during a critical time for the energy transition. The UK has a legally binding target of reaching net zero by 2050 and the energy white paper – which is set to outline the UK’s pathway to getting there and which technologies are to receive government support – is to be published “in a matter of weeks”.

Energy UK’s interim chief executive Audrey Gallacher welcomed Sharma to his new role, with the appointment occurring at a “crucial time” as the energy sector works to go “further and faster” on decarbonisation.

“The UK power sector has been world-leading in reducing emissions but if we’re to meet our future targets, it is important to have the right policy framework in place from government.

“So we look forward to the forthcoming energy white paper and Budget where we hope to see ambitious measures from a concerted cross-government programme that will enable the right investment and innovation to accelerate the drive to meet net zero.

"We welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with government to deliver net zero and bring benefits for the environment, the economy and customers.”

The Solar Trade Association praised Sharma’s approach to solar, with external affairs adviser Jack Dobson-Smith saying: “Mr Sharma’s appointment is promising for the industry. He recognised the vital contribution solar is making to Britain’s decarbonisation efforts while at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and we look forward to working with him to drive this forward in the coming years.”

Sharma, alongside taking charge at BEIS, has also been appointed as Minister for COP26, replacing Claire O’Neill.

COP26 is on the horizon, set to take place in Glasgow in November, however, O’Neill described it as “miles off track” in a letter criticising the PM’s support for the summit and climate action in the UK.

Amy MacConnachie, head of external affairs at the Renewable Energy Association, said appointing Sharma as the Minister for COP26 and energy secretary was “the right decision” when considering “the amount of progress the UK needs to make on its carbon targets ahead” of the climate summit. The decision, she continued, showed “strong commitment and leadership” on the international stage.

“The REA welcomes Mr Sharma to his new role, and there is no doubt that the Secretary of State has a lot of work to do. There are significant and numerous policy blockages that are causing stagnation in deployment, new investment and jobs across the UK in the renewable energy and clean technology sector.

“We are already clearly seeing this in the solar sector. We believe that without swift intervention these threaten not only the renewables and clean technology sector, but the UK’s ability to achieve Net Zero and grow jobs and exports,” MacConnachie said, adding that “all is not lost”, pointing to clear policy solutions that if enacted will overcome those barriers.

The REA has written to Sharma to share those solutions, MacConnachie said, and offered its support to the government to see them implemented before COP26.

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