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Decarbonisation policies resulting in higher energy bills? Hear from our Head of Policy

In response to the Lords Economic Affairs Committee publishing its report The Price of Power: Reforming the Electricity Market Energy Saving Trust’s Head of Policy, David Weatherall, challenges some of the key findings.  

In summary, the report raises concerns about the low levels of spare electricity capacity and its rising cost, and sets out a number of recommendations to address these issues.

Most notably the report criticises Government interventions to decarbonise the electricity sector, which it states have raised electricity costs for consumers. A key recommendation of the report’s findings is to abandon the energy trilemma framework, instead putting security of supply as a first priority, only then pursuing policies to decarbonise electricity at the lowest cost to consumers.

Other recommendations include setting up an Energy Commission to scrutinise energy policy decisions, establishing a National Energy Research Centre (NERC) to research new, clean generation technologies and explore their commercial deployment, and setting out a plan B for the much criticised Hinkley Point C.

David Weatherall, Head of PolicyDavid Weatherall (pictured) believes that the creation of an Energy Commission that considers how a future energy system can balance the needs for security of supply, decarbonisation and low-energy bills could be a useful step forward. He added a word of caution however: “Consideration would have to be given as to how such a committee would work with the existing Committee on Climate Change (CCC)”.

David also challenges the assumption that 10 per cent of the cost of electricity for domestic users was due to climate change policies. He said:

“There has been a concerning trend in recent years to only see the costs of decarbonisation. This rhetoric simply doesn’t take into account the obvious fact that investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency delivers significant benefits that bring energy bills down.

“Renewable energy generation forces down wholesale electricity costs across the market because, once renewable capacity is in place, the costs of generation are so low." David Weatherall, Head of Policy, Energy Saving Trust

“Once energy efficiency improvements like insulation are made to people’s homes the savings on energy bills are made year after year. We should also remember that policies to make our home appliances more energy efficient have delivered huge savings on electricity bills in the last decade. In that time the amount of energy used by the most power-hungry home appliances – for example fridges – has gone down by a quarter, as a direct result of energy and carbon saving regulations.”

The Report raises questions about the timetable of the 2050 carbon emissions reduction target.

Electricity pylon in the UKDavid disagrees with the statement that the Government should “use its powers to vary the pace of emissions reductions to achieve the 2050 target”. The 2008 Climate Change Act set out a robust framework of carbon budgets and established the Committee on Climate Change which already gives recommendations to ensure the UK pursues the most cost effective pathway to the 2050 target. David simply says that the world-leading CCC and Climate Change Act “shouldn’t be messed with”.

Finally, the report says investment in renewable energy should be deferred until new technologies are developed that can be delivered at low cost.  David argues that there are plenty of proven renewable technologies out there. “What we need is for Government to support their mass deployment therefore bringing costs down for everyone.”

Read more of our blogs on green strategy and politics, and discover more about our policy work.

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Our Head of Policy, David Weatherall, is one of the Energy Saving Trust’s most experienced spokespeople and has worked on the policy issues around energy efficiency for more than ten years. Follow David on Twitter: @Atrapalhado

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