The Energys Group regulatory round up; what’s key in the world of environmental legislation?

Green regs will stay post Brexit

This March, welcome news has come that the UK will hold firm to it’s world-leading stance on sustainable regulation.

Business Green reports Theresa May has given the clearest indication yet of her intention to minimise post-Brexit disruption for the green economy, promising to maintain environmental standards and work as closely as possible with key EU energy and environment agencies post-Brexit.

May’s promises; the regulatory rundown

The Prime Minister made the green promises as part of a speech on the UK’s future economic partnership with the EU.

She did not specifically name any new binding commitments, but reiterated the government had no intention of rolling back environmental protections.

“In areas like workers’ rights or the environment, the EU should be confident that we will not engage in a race to the bottom in the standards and protections we set,” she said.

“There is no serious political constituency in the UK which would support this – quite the opposite.”

Indeed, she made a commitment to ensure the relevant UK regulatory standards remain at least as high as the EU’s.

And further, the Prime Minister confirmed the UK would seek associate membership or close cooperation with a host of European agencies, including the European Chemicals Agency which governs the sweeping REACH regulations.

Similarly, May hinted the UK would explore continued close cooperation with the EU’s energy union and Euratom agency.

She concluded: “The UK has among the highest environmental and animal welfare standards of any nation on earth.

“As we leave the EU we will uphold environmental standards and go further to protect our shared natural heritage. And I fully expect that our standards will remain at least as high as the EU’s.”

“The promises will come as welcome reading to the low carbon sector,” commented Kevin Cox, Managing Director, Energys.

“This assertion that no watering down of green law is coming, is exactly what low carbon needed. Now let’s get on with the day to day essentials of embedding and meeting the green targets and commitments we’ve already made.”

UK sticks to its green guns; what’s in the pipeline for 2018 green law?

Energy Performance Certificates: As of April 1, all commercial buildings within the scope of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) must have a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of E, or they will be illegal to rent out.

The April change is absolutely crucial to delivering better energy efficiency in UK buildings.

What’s happening with our air?

In February, the Government was slammed by the courts for failing to produce a plan to tackle the growing problem of air pollution.

The judgment will force ministers back to the drawing board in their efforts to clean up dirty urban air. The court heard that, 8 years after the UK was found to be in breach of legal limits on the pollutant, levels were still too high in 37 out of 43 zones across the country.

Ministers have been slow to get to grips with the problem, which has been caused in part by the rise in the number of diesel vehicles on the roads, and increasing urbanisation.

New law isn’t yet here on air. But we may have just seen the final limits breached that will make new regs inevitable.

News just in: Spring Statement

It’s been revealed Chancellor Philip Hammond’s March Spring Statement contains a long-awaited call for evidence on how to tackle single-use plastic waste.

In all likelihood, this will lead to eventual new tax law on single use plastic.

Further, green groups will be nurturing hopes the March Statement may kick off the consultations on energy efficiency that were trailed in last year’s Clean Growth Strategy, or provide more detail on how Ministers intend to fund aspects of the 25 Year Environment Plan.

 


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Energys Group urges NHS to take action now and not wait for increased government funds

Kevin Cox explains why the NHS and other public bodies must make energy efficiency savings to release more funds for over-stretched ‘front-line’ services.

While uncertainty about Brexit dominates the political landscape, causing equal amounts of anxiety and expectation in the public at large, other aspects of public life continue to loom large. In particular is the perennial strain on the NHS budget and stress on its staff and patients.

In its recent survey findings of respondents in England, released in September 2017, The Kings Fund found that despite the “significant challenges faced by the NHS, it continues to enjoy unwavering support among the public which endures across the generations.”

Indeed 77% of the public believes the NHS should be maintained in its current form; around 90% of people support the founding principles of the NHS and 66% are willing to pay more of their own taxes to fund the NHS, underlining growing support among the public for tax rises to increase NHS funding.

“We’re not here to comment on the political aspects of the findings of The King’s Fund and IPSOS Mori survey or to call for increased taxation to support the NHS,” comments Kevin Cox, Managing Director of Energys Group. “However, we are calling on the NHS facilities managers, energy managers and Trust chiefs to take the lead in making their estates more energy efficient, and return the savings to where there is the most need – patient care.

“There is no argument from us that staff at the NHS do crucial work, whether on the front-line caring for, transporting and supporting patients directly, or in the critical, unseen and unheralded back-room services, such as administration, maintenance, HR and finance.”

The recently released third annual Impact Report released by the independent NHS Sustainability Campaign highlights the work that is being done by individual trusts to develop low-carbon measures and make considerable savings. For example the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust expects to save around £1.2m each year thanks to a carbon management plan.

Kevin Cox applauds the work being done by Trusts to develop low-carbon measures: “But there is more to be done to ensure that those who work in this 24-hour, 365 days a year service, are not paying the price for their care, in poor working conditions, inefficient buildings and at increased risk to their own health and wellbeing. The NHS needs to look after itself in order that it can look after the public.”

Energys Group will be launching a year-long campaign to help the NHS achieve estate-wide cost savings that will have a significant effect on productivity, staff wellbeing and ultimately, enable savings that will benefit patient care.



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As we approach 2018, what key trends in energy efficiency are closing out the year?

Energy Live News is reporting that a new energy and carbon reporting framework would be supported by 87% of decision makers in British businesses.

The news comes from npower Business Solutions, whose research shows UK stakeholders believe new frameworks could drive a nationwide reduction in energy use, bills and carbon emissions.

According to Energy Live News, the survey of 500 senior figures suggests reduced energy costs would be the biggest benefit from a change in reporting frameworks (58%), followed by increased energy efficiency (54%) and reduced bureaucracy (45%).

The intriguing industry sentiment comes in response to the Government’s October 2017 Streamlined Energy & Carbon Reporting Consultation, which will run until January 4 2018.

Its purpose is to seek views on how to replace the reporting element of the Carbon Reduction Commitment, which will be abolished after the 2018/19 compliance year.

“The reform package has been put in place to cut down administration burdens and raise energy efficiency awareness for UK PLC,” comments Kevin Cox, Managing Director, Energys.

“In our organisation, as experts on energy efficiency, we are aware of the fact that reporting can be burdensome, but it’s also incredibly valuable.

“It can drive internal change, behavioural change, and take energy efficiency right up the boardroom priority list. We urge every UK company to make it their business to look at the consultation.

“If we can start off 2018 in the right way, with a fantastic new framework that delivers more and more energy efficiency throughout the year; that will be an amazing Christmas present.”

Gas vs energy efficiency

Elsewhere, Carbon Brief has analysed whether gas, which accounts for more than a third of UK emissions, can continue to play a role in the provision of energy, given the UK’s current climate ambitions.

Its research, released on December 5, cites recent analysis by the Tyndall Centre which suggests the role of gas will be extremely limited, due to the small remaining carbon budget.

Alternatively, Carbon Brief finds that energy efficiency remains a more attractive option for achieving long term carbon mitigation and business opportunities in the UK.

Its research explains; ‘While gas displaces some coal initially (prior to 2020), as is currently being observed in the UK’s electricity generation sector, the modelling points to a cost-effective pathway where new investment is focused on renewables and in energy efficiency measures.’

“We’re pleased to see more evidence that energy efficiency is the best option for mitigating carbon and delivering futureproof, responsive UK businesses,” says Cox.

“Many in the sector know and understand that the energy you don’t use is always cheaper and greener than any fossil fuel, even one which acts as a ‘bridge’ to help kick the UK’s historic fossil fuel addiction.

“We advocate; get energy efficiency to the top of the pile now, and let’s not pretend that fossils represent more than a transitory option at best.”

Energys wishes all our friends and partners a Happy Christmas, and we look forward to keeping you up to date with the sector throughout 2018.

5 things you need to know about this year’s party conferences and energy

We round-up the key issues in energy which the UK’s political parties are grappling with at their respective conferences.

1. Energy prices won’t go away

According to this i news briefing, MPs of all parties are demanding Theresa May keeps her promise to curb big energy price rises.

It claims Theresa May is facing a growing Tory rebellion before her party’s conference, over failing to act on a manifesto commitment to cap electricity and gas bills for 17 million families across the UK.

The government signalled on Thursday 28 September that it was prepared to legislate to curb excessive price rises if the regulator Ofgem failed to produce adequate proposals to combat profiteering.

2. Labour to re-nationalise energy

Metro writes that John McDonnell has confirmed that Labour will re-nationalise railways, water, energy and Royal Mail, if in power.

“Building an economy for the many also means bringing ownership and control of the utilities and key services into the hands of people who use and work in them. Rail, water, energy, Royal Mail: we’re taking them back.” he said.

3. Brexit trumps energy

Richard Black, Director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, says feedback from MPs suggests it is difficult to predict what will be happening in Parliament over the next couple of months following conferences. “The prime ministership is very fragile,” he told Utility Week.

But others are more candid; saying there’s little doubt which issue will be most on Tory activists’ minds when they assemble in Manchester. “The Tory party will be dominated by Brexit, I’m afraid,” says Tim Yeo, the Conservative former Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.

4. But, there is hope…

However, Luke Clark, Head of Public Affairs at Renewable UK, believes the consensus around the need to decarbonise the energy mix has strengthened over the past year.

“Across the parties there is a very strong majority in favour of continued development of renewables. Very few fringe voices are questioning the direction of travel,” was his takeaway for Utility Week.

5. Nuclear is in the mix

The sense is that nuclear power will continue to be under the spotlight at the Tory conference, with environmentalists calling for a rethink of government support following the dramatic reduction in offshore wind prices thrown up by the recent contracts for difference auction.

The nuclear lobby will be heartened that BEIS Secretary Greg Clark’s biggest energy speaking slot on the Tory fringe will be an hour-long Q&A at a Nuclear Industry Association meeting.

“There’s so much electricity capacity coming off in the next 10 to 15 years that we need to develop all of the low-carbon options available to us and that includes nuclear,” says Peter Haslam, Head of Policy at the Nuclear Industry Association.

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Energy policy, infrastructure, investment and the future; Energys Group supports aims of new Balfour Beatty report

Balfour Beatty is one of the UK’s top infrastructure providers. As such, it is expertly positioned to comment and lobby on measures required to maintain jobs, competitive industry and a burgeoning UK economy.

The firm’s latest report; ‘Infrastructure 2050 – Future Infrastructure Need,’ has much to say. Overarchingly, it seeks to influence future infrastructure and energy policy, highlighting UK skills shortages, an investment shortfall and economic uncertainty, plus Brexit, as just some of the obstacles to future prosperity.

The report in detail; energy

Balfour Beatty clearly believes that technology is key to the future. Its paper argues that smart technology in building design can help individuals control the space around them and the amount of energy they use.

This endorsement of energy efficiency is most welcome, but there is more. The firm says that a clear long-term vision for UK energy policy needs to be developed, agreed, communicated and retained to provide investors with certainty.

More specifically, the government should support the development of interconnectors, smart grids and smart networks and energy storage through the removal of regulatory barriers to develop markets, in order to help deliver £8bn a year savings to the UK consumer.

Evidently, Balfour considers the UK grid antiquated, and wants solutions fast. It says society will come more and more to demand intelligent infrastructure, which makes the most of energy generation and
distribution.

This will make our buildings smarter and offer up data to inform future decision making. But the implicit sense in the paper is that as a whole, the UK is as yet distant from reaching such goals.

Decarbonisation

Unsurprisingly, Balfour seeks a largely decarbonised energy system before the middle of the century, saying a continuous, reliable and low carbon energy supply is crucial for economic growth and stability as well as social well-being.

It predicts a worsening energy crunch by 2030 and is candid on today’s incoherent strategy, saying, ‘A clear long-term vision for UK energy policy needs to be developed and communicated to facilitate the hundreds of billions of pounds worth of investment in the energy supply infrastructure required by 2030.’

Balfour does praise recent decisions on an overall coal phase out, but argues such certainty is required across the energy policy and investment landscape.

The firm sees a burgeoning future for energy storage, saying it can be used to complement low carbon and renewable generation sources if utilised as a balancing mechanism and appropriately regulated, creating a multi-billion pound industry.

The sense within the paper as a whole is that there is hope out there, but appropriate actions are required fast, and today’s politics pose a risk to future readiness in energy.

The Energys response

“We welcome Balfour Beatty’s paper,” comments Kevin Cox, Managing Director, Energys Group. “The energy sections in particular show how world leading infrastructure providers are all coming to the same conclusion; energy efficiency and decarbonisation represent the future.

“Obviously, tough political times are here, and there are myriad challenges for today’s UK energy sector. To my mind, the paper points to one truth.

“If low carbon firms, centralised policy and the big infrastructure providers and operators come together, there is a chance not only to develop a prosperous UK, but one whose jobs and industries primarily create wealth from low carbon, not coal.

“The issue is we must start now. And all must pull together. Time is not available to waste.”