The overarching UK energy policy environment is in the midst of change and we set out our vision our recent paper, 'Energy efficiency: Recalibrating the debate'. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has been closed and its functions moved into the new-look business department: the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Alongside this, the vote to leave the EU means that one of the primary drivers of energy and environmental policy will go. This means that energy and climate change policy will remain in a state of flux for some time to come.
Now more than ever the government needs to provide clarity on how the UK is to proceed with its low-carbon agenda, especially in the light of the closure of the Green Deal, the reduction in scope of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), the cut in Feed-in Tariff rates and abandonment of zero carbon homes legislation for new build.
Recent political changes can serve as a new start. We think that now is the perfect time to rethink how we look at energy policy and is why we’ve produced this new paper.
With changes and new opportunities ahead for UK energy there is a strong economic and social argument for a new energy policy with energy efficiency at its heart.
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The benefits of energy efficiency go far beyond insulating homes, and we need a new narrative which reflects this. Health improvements, air quality and energy security, increased tax revenues, jobs and GDP, are all things that a concerted program of home retrofit work can achieve—and should be the factors driving the policy agenda. These benefits cover areas across government and policy-making should reflect that. Alongside an energy policy rethink there is a tremendous opportunity for more joined up activity across health, work and pensions, energy and business, and environment, to make the most of the opportunities of energy efficiency.
Germany, with its Energiewende, and more recently, France, have taken on ambitious moves towards energy transition, looking at the economy as a whole. There are also examples on these shores. Scotland has a package of policies supporting a whole range of initiatives, from large-scale renewables to district heating and community energy.
To create complementary policies that are packaged with firm end goals in mind, there has to be a move beyond the partisan. Scotland also illustrates this well: there's cross-party support for energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority (as well as approving the investment to back such a priority), plus a commitment to bring homes up to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C by 2030. We can learn from these examples at a UK-wide level and set about our own energy transformation. We need to start by changing the way we look at energy policy and place energy efficiency, the ‘first fuel’, on centre stage.