Thursday 27th November 2014                 Change text size:

Government takes small but positive steps in Queen’s Speech



Photo: Peter Pearson via Flickr

In her speech to parliament this morning, the Queen outlined plans for water and energy bills to be introduced, as well as banking reforms and the launch of the Green Investment Bank, but there’s still a long way to go until we witness the “greenest government ever”.

In a speech that focused on “economic growth, justice and constitutional reform”, the Queen quelled prior rumours that the Energy Bill would be delayed, stating that the Government “will propose reform of the electricity market to deliver secure, clean and affordable electricity and ensure prices are fair.”

Labour’s Barry Gardiner was one of a number of MPs who added fuel to the fire in the run-up to the speech, stating on Twitter that the Government had decided to drop the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) Bill.

Despite its inclusion, the vagueness surrounding this particular statement has made individuals environmental space speak out in favour of a clean power shift.

The Prime Minister must resist pressure from fringe elements within his party to ‘lurch to the right’ on energy”, said Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins.

85% of the public back moves to invest in clean British energy from the sun, sea and wind.

The Prime Minister must honour his pledge to lead the “greenest government ever” and seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make our power system cleaner, more affordable and less reliant on increasingly imported fossil fuels.”

Meanwhile on Twitter, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas called the speechdeeply worrying”, and said that the EMR Bill “risks locking us in high carbon, high cost gas”.

In his budget statement in March, the chancellor George Osborne had outlined the Government’s intentions to shape its energy market around gas, because of cheapness and relatively lower emissions.

The cost and non-existent emissions from renewable energy is something that the coalition had clearly not thought about.

Despite the uncertainty, Renewable Energy Association CEO Gaynor Hartnell said that they were “[looking] forward” to seeing the full details of the Energy Bill.

This is of immense importance to project developers in renewables, as the measures it puts in place will eventually replace the Renewables Obligation”, she said.

Many of the projects in development now are working to a timescale that takes them into the new regime, and they need to know the detail as soon as possible.

The new arrangements aim to deliver a stable price for renewable electricity generators, irrespective of what happens to electricity prices.

If all works as intended, it should make project development less risky and means that the public pays no more than it needs to for green power.”

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced after the speech that the Energy Bill is scheduled for release on May 22.

A spokeswoman said, “This is crucial legislation. The Energy Bill would reform the electricity market to keep the lights on and emissions down in a more cost-effective way, while reaping the economic benefits.

It is designed to provide investors with long-term certainty and incentives to invest in low-carbon.”

As well as the Energy Bill, the Queen also announced plans for a Bill “to reform the water industry” and measures to “further strengthen regulation of the financial services sector and implement the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Banking”.

Meanwhile, the much-anticipated Green Investment Bank was given a boost after being mentioned in just the fifth line of the address.

Whilst the Energy Bill announcement did leave a lot to be desired in the push towards a sustainable economy, it’s undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

A clearer energy focus, and particularly a greater appreciation of renewable energy, is imperative in achieving this. And this cannot be an unenthusiastic side-project – it must form the backbone of our economy in order for it to maximise benefits in employment and the economy.

Further reading:

Government denies Energy Bill delay

An unsustainable budget

Budget statement: what about the environment?


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