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December 16, 2011

UK news highlights


What with climate change negotiations, the cross-governmental Carbon Plan, Water White Paper, Electricity Market Reform, smart meter roll out, UK’s first Carbon Capture and Storage plant, red tape challenge, and lessons from Deepwater Horizon and Fukushima, it has been a busy few weeks for ESTH issues in the UK.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has had a hectic lead up to Christmas on the international and domestic front.  On December 12, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, made a statement to the House of Commons on the outcomes of the Durban COP17 Climate Change Conference.  Huhne hailed the conference as a “significant step forward”.  The Secretary of State said he was pleased with three key achievements: the agreement on a roadmap to a new global legally binding agreement; a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from 2013; and the establishment of the Green Climate Fund.  You can read the debate in Parliament here and also watch the Secretary of State and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker give evidence to the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee  on December 13.  DECC’s official press release on the outcome of Durban can be found here and Chris Huhne’s speech to the conference here.

DECC has been moving ahead with plans to decarbonise the UK economy.  On December 1, the Government released a cross-departmental Carbon Plan setting out how the Government plans to meet the UK’s carbon emission targets.   New details have been published on proposals for Electricity Market Reform.  The Government will legislate for a “Capacity Market” to help the UK meet electricity demand and introduce new subsidies to encourage investment in low carbon energy projects.   On December 7, Chris Huhne announced a £10 million Local Energy Assessment Fund to help communities develop energy projects and an extra £20 million for the public sector energy efficiency loans scheme.

At the end of last month, Energy Minister Charles Hendry gave a speech on the smart meter rollout project – which aims to install 53 million smart electricity and gas meters in British homes and small businesses.  In Yorkshire, Chris Huhne opened a flagship Carbon Capture and Storage test program.  New technology will capture up to 100 tonnes of carbon emissions a day from Scottish and Southern Energy’s Ferrybridge coal-fired power station.  Huhne said “this is the first operating carbon capture plant attached to a power station at this scale in the UK and has benefited from more than £6 million in public money.  This investment will be invaluable to the wider commercial scale deployment of CCS.”    To help identify ineffective or unnecessary regulation Ministers are also urging businesses, green groups and individuals to take part in the Government’s Red Tape Challenge – watch a clip of Charles Hendry.

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the findings of the independent Review of UK Oil and Gas Regulatory Regime(pdf) have been published.  The Review Panel was “reassured” that the UK regime incorporates a number of “positive” features which were not present in the U.S. at the time of the incident and pleased that additional steps have been taken in response.  Nevertheless, the Panel makes recommendations for further improvement and the Energy Minister Charles Hendry has asked regulators to work with industry and agree an action plan.  Ministers have also pledged to continue working with international partners on nuclear safety, with the Government’s official response to Dr Mike Weightman’s report on lessons learnt from Fukushima for the UK nuclear industry

See DECC’s December review (pdf) for further news from Energy and Climate Change Ministers.

In news from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), Secretary of State, Vince Cable made a speech on Resource Security at the CBI/Green Alliance Conference in London.   Cable said that in addressing the issue of resource use and environmental sustainability “big business, responsibly managed, and markets, property regulated, are part of the solution rather than the problem”.  The Secretary of State announced the first priorities for the new Green Investment Bank, which include offshore wind power and energy from waste generation, and a new UK Green Investments Team to be based at BIS.

At the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Secretary of State Caroline Spelman has published the Water White Paper.  The Government plans to publish a Draft Water Bill early next year, with proposals to improve the condition of rivers, reform the water industry and tackle water stress.

In other news, analysis from the Committee on Climate Change shows that household energy bills have increased primarily due to wholesale gas costs not environmental policies.   A Yougov poll (pdf) for the Sunday Times reveals public support for renewable energy.   And there is word of a mysterious goose killer near the Olympic Park.


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