On Wednesday 6 July, while the Westminster world imploded, the Government held the first reading of their Energy Security Bill in the House of Lords. The accompanying press release summarises the 26 new measures. Disappointingly, they continue the rhetoric that has become the norm with this Government of focussing almost entirely on large tech and supply side changes (nuclear fusion, hydrogen and Carbon Capture and Storage) and contain little substance regarding decarbonisation, energy efficiency and retrofit - and no support for community energy.
This is a serious missed opportunity and is not sufficient to the task of achieving legally binding decarbonisation targets by 2030. We will attempt to get Peers to highlight its shortcomings at the second reading in the Lords later this month and to submit substantive amendments during the Committee Stage in the Autumn.
The Bill does include a number of points that we see as beneficial including point 17 which states will “Help establish a market-based mechanism for the low-carbon heat industry to step up investment and lower the cost of electric heat pumps, while scaling up domestic manufacturing and installation”. We welcome the support for the heat pump sector but, as we know from experience, this must come in conjunction with support to those trusted intermediaries including CE organisations who help smooth the installation projects making their deployment a success.
However, there are some serious emissions within this Bill, that we would have hoped to see. Despite being in the midst of an energy crisis which is set to get dramatically worse in the winter to come there was no support for emergency energy efficiency or energy advice work.
We are also disappointed that the Energy Security Bill failed to include giving Ofgem a net zero remit and the remit to prioritise social benefit.
The press release vaunts the government’s spending on energy efficiency this parliament at £6.6 billion but even with earlier spending this still falls some £2 billion short of the £9.2 billion manifesto pledge and way short of what is necessary. The recent Climate Change Committee Progress Report which gave the government a 4 out of 10 singled out energy efficiency as an area where delivery is woefully inadequate.
The Energy Security Bill pinpoints ‘affordable’ as one of three key priorities of the Bill along with ‘clean and secure’, all of which community energy can provide but the government seem determined to ignore.
Recently, when questioned by the cross-party Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, the SoS stated that “Every pound we spend is always measured through the lens of how much we are actually leveraging in from the private sector”. However, he had previously said that the "Government has decided not to provide further grant funding for community energy projects through a national Community Energy Fund at the present time", despite CEE continually stressing the value for money of a development grant scheme (like RCEF) where £1 could mobilise community capital to create £69 worth of schemes, compared to a capital grant scheme where £1 delivers £1's worth of projects (e.g. the Levelling Up Fund).
If affordability is so important how can the government continue to ignore an opportunity to fund community energy that is ‘win, win, win’ for government investment, mobilising community capital, involvement, and ongoing social and community benefit for comparatively tiny provision of seed funding.
Duncan Law, Acting Co-Chief Executive of Community Energy England said,
"Supporting community energy to grow and spread is a potential win, win, win for the government - and it's popular. It is a pity, when the government funds centralised, 'supply-side' technology measures, which will benefit big business, to the tune of billions, that it can't find a few million for community energy.“
Community Energy England will aim to get Peers to register that community energy is missing at the second reading in the Lords later this month and urge that the government should give itself broad powers or duties to support it. We will table amendments at the Committee Stage in the Autumn. As alway you can help by writing to your MP to ask them to write to the Secretary of State.