Queen's Speech: slim pickings on climate and energy
By Sam Richards, ECIU Head of Strategy
This was a Queen’s Speech defined by absence. Stripped of its usual pomp, it also lacked many of the policies contained in the Conservative manifesto. While the Government committed to intervene in a “broken” energy market, there was no mention of a price cap - ECIU understands it has been put on hold. Nor was the promised cost of energy review raised. While this will not require legislation, it seems odd for a Government seeking to bulk out a rather thin speech to omit a key plank of its governing agenda. Expected plans to relax planning laws and expand fracking for shale gas also failed to materialise.
With no majority, no DUP deal (yet), and Article 50 negotiations just beginning, the Government has scraped everything else off its plate and will consume little beyond the raw meat of Brexit. Atkins Government.
There were however a few points of note. On Brexit, the lack of a specific energy bill means that most areas of energy policy will be contained within the Repeal Bill, and our future relationship with the EU internal energy market remains up for debate. However, the Government did prepare the ground for the UK’s departure from Euratom, and pledged to establish a new nuclear safeguards regime with a Nuclear Safeguards Bill. This will be critical to ensuring the continued supply of nuclear power – currently around 21% of the energy mix.
The Government also reaffirmed its commitment to the rollout of electric vehicles, with a bill that will require the installation of charge points for electric vehicles at motorway service areas and large fuel retailers. Crucially this will require a set of common technical and operational standards for charge points, a key ask of EV manufacturers and consumers. However, many EV experts were hoping for more on chargers at the workplace and in new developments. As EV charging already covers 98% of the UK motorway network, questions will be asked as to whether this really is the radical expansion needed to kick-start EV take-up.
The Government also recommitted to its smart meter rollout, with all homes and businesses to be offered the technology by 2020. Industry figures have privately warned that the timetable is unrealistic, and while the Government argues the moves will ultimate provide a saving of £300million across all households, it remains to be seen whether the rollout will work as planned.
Finally, the expression of continued British support for the Paris Agreement was significant in the wake of Trump’s recent announcement. Alongside the Governments recommitment to Greg Clark’s Industrial Strategy, it perhaps confirms the country’s course on a low-carbon path following the departure of Climate Change Act-sceptic Nick Timothy. However, despite these statements of ambition there is still no sign of the Clean Growth Plan, which was due at the end of last year. A clearer steer is still needed on how the Government intends to hit its legally binding emissions targets.