Election 2017 results: Energys analyses the implications for green legislation and low carbon

Election 2017 turned out to be a revelation, with the Conservative majority lost and a new power-brokering tightrope set to dominate Westminster.

In a hung Parliament, what will become of environmental, low carbon priorities? Here’s the opinion breakdown…

Could Brexit soften?

The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) suggests a weak Conservative Government may end up negotiating a softer Brexit.

In its industry update, EIC argues this in turn could make it more likely that UK environmental law post-Brexit will mirror EU law indefinitely (the EU Parliament stated recently that full UK compliance with all EU environmental regulations is a non-negotiable part of any UK/EU trade deal).

So, Election 2017 could increase certainty in some environmental markets. But equally a weak UK government must make an unstable and unpredictable run up to Brexit more likely, which could have serious economic repercussions.

Soft Brexit is likely good for low carbon, but instability and poor economics are not. Hints are it could be a choice between two devils.

DUP influences

Business Green thinks, ‘There will be particular concern amongst green groups about the DUP’s record on environmental issues and climate change.’ Following Conservative losses, a DUP partnership looks to be Theresa May’s only way to try and govern.

At the time of reporting, no alternative had been offered for a Labour-led coalition. Corbyn has offered to form a government, but Liberal Democrats are saying coalition isn’t on the cards.

Business Green notes the DUP manifesto does call for, ‘A secure and sustainable energy supply for both domestic and business customers.’

But it makes little or no mention of renewables, energy efficiency, or climate policy. “The perception of the DUP is not a pretty one for renewables and climate change,” an industry source told Business Green.

“Their manifesto is one we’ve been looking at for a while, it is not openly hostile, but also not particularly big on renewables, although there is a big focus on reducing manufacturing costs.”

Business Green also observes that industry hopes a hung Parliament may provide an opportunity for a cross bench informal coalition on climate and energy issues. “There is alignment on climate and energy issues across major party manifestos,” their source continued.

“The electorate is clearly divided, and not along party lines, so it’s really important that we all grow up and all work together on certain issues, and the green economy is one of those.”

Energy plans

Conservative energy reforms, proposed in their manifesto, could now be out to pasture; they may lack the votes, DUP or otherwise, to get them through. The new pot for industrial energy efficiency could also be threatened.

Overall; ‘Britain’s green policy is now at a standstill, and sustainability professionals will be concerned that this could cause a further delay to the release of some major proposed environmental legislation, such as the Clean Growth Plan and the 25-Year Environment Plan,’ writes EDIE.

But, ‘On the plus side, the Conservatives’ loss of seats will mean the party can be more closely held to account over the level of ambition when it comes to key environmental legislation.’

Election 2017 tears up the rule book

In every sense, the political floodgates are now open.

Paddy Ashdown has tweeted; ‘If this election was about Brexit, then must we not conclude that Britain has rejected Mrs May’s hard Brexit?’

That softening could be welcomed by some groups. DesmogUK argues; ‘As things move forward, it’s looking like it will be a lot harder for significant environmental deregulation to take place without a fight. Meaning staying strong on environmental policies could be an easy win for the opposing parties.’

This illustrates the fascinating balance of tit for tat and real world policy-making that is today’s politics. Jonathan Bartley, The Green Party co-leader, spots more dichotomies, noting; ‘The Green Party got nearly twice the votes of climate-denying DUP, who may now have a hand in Government.’

Of late, politics truly has become a strange brew. All that’s guaranteed is low carbon must fight for progressive, disruptive energy and environment policy to maintain high billing in the new Westminster.

That in itself is nothing unusual. But the unexpected circumstances of the coming battle have shocked everyone.

Election 2017: What are the main parties promising on energy efficiency, low carbon and environment?

June’s vote offers an opportunity for the Conservatives and Labour to fundamentally develop and support low carbon, energy efficient UK business. What choices are corporate leaders being offered at Election 2017? Here’s the Energys Group lowdown on what both of the main parties are promising.

The Conservative manifesto

On energy and efficiency…

Theresa May’s manifesto ambition is that the UK should have the lowest energy costs in Europe, both for households and businesses. ‘As we upgrade our energy infrastructure, we will do it in an affordable way, consistent with that ambition,’ reads the Tory agenda.

‘And because for British companies, an energy efficient business is a more competitive business, we will establish an industrial energy efficiency scheme to help large companies install measures to cut their energy use and their bills.

‘After we have left the European Union, we will form our energy policy based not on the way energy is generated but on the ends we desire – reliable and affordable energy, seizing the industrial opportunity that new technology presents and meeting our global commitments on climate change.’

The Conservatives also want a wide range of sources for Britain’s energy production, saying, ‘A diverse energy economy is the best way to stimulate innovation.’

Low carbon…

Isn’t mentioned in the Conservative manifesto.

Sustainability…

Doesn’t gain a mention in an environmental context, though NHS Sustainability and Transformation plans are noted, along with the long term sustainability of the Scottish economy.

The Labour manifesto

On energy and efficiency…

Page 20 of the Labour manifesto is entitled ‘Sustainable energy.’ It says Labour policy seeks:

To ensure security of energy supply and ‘keep the lights on.’
To ensure energy costs are affordable for consumers and businesses.
To ensure we meet our climate change targets and transition to a ‘low-carbon economy,’ a phrase the Conservatives don’t mention.

According to Labour, today’s energy system is outdated, expensive and polluting. The party wants to, ‘Take energy back into public ownership to deliver renewable energy, affordability for consumers, and democratic control.’

Energy efficiency doesn’t gain a mention in the Labour manifesto.

Sustainability

This is mentioned in the context of the NHS, but not the environment. Labour does say it is committed to ensuring environmental sustainability in the operations of British businesses around the world.

What does it all actually mean?

EDIE writes; ‘The official Labour Party manifesto has been broadly praised by green groups for including a raft of bold pledges to ramp up renewable energy generation, tackle air quality and embed the Sustainable Development Goals into central government.’

On the Conservative document, Environment Analyst writes: ‘The manifesto, and its pledge to, “leave the UK’s environment in a better shape than it was found,” is almost completely devoid of commitments or ambition to continually improve the UK’s natural environment.’

Describing the environment as ‘found’ is an interesting choice of words, normally used to describe policies inherited from an opposition. This hints Theresa May wants this election to separate her position and policy from the previous Tory administration.

EDIE says: ‘The Conservatives have pledged to maintain the UK’s climate change commitments through enhanced clean technology and energy efficiency funding, but the Party’s manifesto also proposes continued support for the North Sea oil and gas industry and an additional focus on fracking.’

Reading between the lines

On balance, Labour’s manifesto gives environment more space than that of the Conservatives. Then again, the Tory’s paper contains promises, although uncosted, on energy efficiency, and hints that an energy efficient private sector is a priority – which is a very welcome move if it materialises.

For a party sitting in power, who chose an election, the decision to release a manifesto without any detailed costings, given that such figures should easily be to hand, is strange.

It could reflect a certainty that victory is around the corner. Either way, by failing to monetise her promises, Theresa May is asking the corporate electorate to take her on trust.

Her promise on energy efficiency, for example, could be crucial. But it contains no detail on the level of financial support it will offer. More stringent numbers would have done much to further her cause in the low carbon sector.

Polling and the race to the post

Recent polls put the Conservatives ahead. If they triumph at the ballot box, the low carbon sector will have to wait and see what true costings on green policy emerge.

Either way, unfortunately, environment and low carbon remain low priorities across the UK political landscape and until these topics become vote winners (or losers) they will remain well down the agenda.

The Conservative manifesto: click here

The Labour manifesto: click here 

New MEES guidance promises vast improvements for energy efficiency in commercial buildings

In recent weeks, industry magazine The Energyst has reported:

‘The government has published guidance for landlords on the new regulations that could prevent them from renting buildings to tenants if they fail to meet minimum energy efficiency standards.’

It’s a crucial development. The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) come into force in April 2018. But preparatory action now is needed, both to understand MEES implications and get ready for potential remedial works.

The minimum level of energy efficiency provisions will mean that, subject to certain requirements and exemptions:

a) from 1 April 2018, landlords of non-domestic private rented properties (including public sector landlords) may not grant a tenancy to new or existing tenants if their property has an EPC rating of band F or G (shown on a valid Energy Performance Certificate for the property).

b) from 1 April 2023, landlords must not continue letting a non-domestic property which is already let if that property has an EPC rating of band F or G.

This means some 1 in 5 UK commercial buildings would fail the MEES test, and the maximum fine for failure to comply with MEES stands at £160,000 per property.

Therefore, it’s critical that landlords across the UK take notice, right now, of the implications. When implemented well, MEES stand to make UK property substantially more sustainable, and improve the quality of rented space for tenants.

Reputational benefit, longer term tenants and a more profitable portfolio are among the wins for landlords. But to reap such rewards, the sector as a whole must react promptly to what MEES will mean.

What does the guidance say?

The guidance sets out, via a number of flowcharts, the decision process whereby landlords can judge whether a property can legally be let under MEES regs. It also details the MEES laws in depth.

This alone is useful. UK environmental legislation is complex. Pathways to help landlords examine their responsibilities, and set about meeting them are most welcome.

“We recommend that every UK commercial landlord consults the MEES guidance immediately,” explains Kevin Cox, Managing Director, Energys Group.

“It’s vital to do this for a number of reasons. Firstly, you need to comply. You need to plan out any costs, and the timeline of getting energy efficiency in your buildings up to standard.

“All of these elements will affect your business, your profit, your planning and your tenants. Often, the response to rules like MEES is to hide one’s head in the sand.

“That simply won’t wash in this case. MEES are here, and it’s essential to comply. There are huge benefits for landlords who do. You can win new business, based on your reputation as a sustainable letting agent.

“You will hold tenants for longer, who prefer the more comfortable heating and cooling systems in your sustainable, intelligently managed buildings. You will be ahead of the game; an example of futureproof, modern business.

“And of course, you will save money on potential fines, while your energy efficient buildings will command higher rents than the competition.”

The Government guidance is available here.

Energys Group offers free site surveys to guide you on the most cost-effective energy efficient solutions for your building. Get in touch for advice.

Spring Budget 2017: Energys highlights the key business moves

What does the Spring Budget 2017 mean for business? Here’s our roundup of the main measures announced for UK firms.

Growth & balance of trade

Real GDP grew by 0.7% in the final quarter of 2016. GDP grew by 1.8% over the year as a whole, and employment rose.

Against this backdrop, and Brexit, news is good for UK business. How long before challenging Brexit impacts kick in, and inflation, higher raw material costs or a weak pound bite? Hard to say.

Overall, Tory ‘discipline’ on spending stays, seeking to rebalance the UK deficit.

Tax

Reductions in the rate of corporation tax to 17% by 2020 will continue. The government will make administrative changes to the Research and Development Expenditure Credit to increase the certainty and simplicity around claims, and will take action to improve awareness of R&D tax credits among SMEs.

Training

There is focus on a highly-skilled workforce. This is the next step in the government’s strategy to improve productivity, building on the recently published Industrial Strategy green paper.

NPIF will invest £250 million over the next four years in research talent. £90 million will provide an additional 1,000 PhD places in areas aligned with the Industrial Strategy. Around 85% will be in STEM disciplines, and 40% will directly help strengthen collaboration between business and academia through industrial partnerships.

A further £160 million will support new fellowships for early and mid-career researchers in areas aligned to the Industrial Strategy.

In addition, New ‘T-Levels’ will be introduced to give parity of esteem for technical education, potentially aiding technical business sectors with staffing and skills.

Transport

£690 million is allocated to local authorities to get local transport networks moving.

Digital

The NPIF will invest £740 million in digital infrastructure by 2020-21, to support the next generation of fast and reliable mobile and broadband communications for consumers and businesses. New National 5G Innovation Network to trial and demonstrate 5G applications.

Innovation

£270 million in 2017-18 will kickstart the development of disruptive technologies that have the potential to transform the UK economy. There will be focus on developing artificial intelligence and robotics, and batteries for the next generation of electric vehicles.

Business mindset

Business investment fell 1.0% in Q4 2016, following a modest increase of 0.7% in Q3 2016. This resulted in a 1.5% decline in business investment in 2016. Private business surveys cited uncertainty about future demand and the outcome of the EU negotiations as weighing on activity and investment.

Labour

The employment rate reached a new record high of 74.6% in the three months to December 2016, while the unemployment rate was 4.8%, the lowest in 11 years.

Global impacts

The International Monetary Fund forecasts global growth will increase slightly to 3.4% in 2017. It judges that the outlook has improved in advanced economies, where growth in the second half of 2016 exceeded its earlier forecasts, while growth prospects have marginally worsened in emerging economies.

Of course, this ignores Brexit impacts on trade deals and the disintegration of policies enabling tariff free cross EU trade, and resetting of global trade deals.

On Brexit

The Budget merely said: ‘In the longer term, the economy will adjust to new relationships with the EU and the rest of the world.

‘In producing the forecast, the OBR has not attempted to predict the precise outcome of negotiations, nor the breadth and depth of new relationships that may be negotiated bilaterally with the EU or other trading partners.’

For now the Government has neglected to comment on any Brexit impacts, and chosen not to model them in its Budget forecasting.


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BRE partners with ESTA for new ESOS compliance guide

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has collaborated with the Energy Services and Technology Association (ESTA) to produce a new guide to help companies comply with the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS).

The guide, dubbed ‘Gaining Value from ESOS Audits’, has been aimed at businesses who qualify under ESOS’ remit and do not already have energy saving measures in place, and aims to instruct them how to both comply with the scheme and take advantage of potential efficiency measures.

BRE has claimed that while the scheme and its auditing process has been put into place to help companies save money, most regard it “purely as a cost or a time-consuming burden”. The paper has been produced to shed more light onto its benefits.

It outlines the basic principles of ESOS and offers guidance on the four main routes to complying with it whilst also touching onto other themes such as display energy certificates, ISO 5001 awards and non-domestic Green Deal assessments.

Read more of this story at www.cleanenergynews.co.uk