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May 24, 2012

UK Highlights – Draft Energy Bill, Eco Homes and Olympic watercourses

by Anna

This week the UK Government set out plans for major changes to the energy market.  Ministers made the case that reforms are necessary to tackle climate change, increase energy security, and keep household bills down.  In other news, Oxford Economics has published research that shows climate change policies will help to reduce the negative impact of energy price shocks.  Watercourses for the London 2012 Olympics have been given the green light for bathing quality, and British adventurer Ben Fogle has announced plans to swim the Atlantic to raise awareness for our oceans.

On Tuesday May 22, the UK Government published the Draft Energy Bill for electricity market reform to “keep the lights on, bills down and air clean.”  Ministers claim the electricity market reforms will help attract £110 billion of investment in low carbon power generation and plug the UK energy gap.   Alongside increasing demand for electricity, around a fifth of existing power generating capacity in the UK is due to come off-line over the next decade.  Secretary of State for Energy, Edward Davey said the reforms will “ensure security of supply for the long-term, reduce the volatility of energy bills by reducing our reliance on imported gas and oil, and meet our climate change goals by largely decarbonising the power sector during the 2030s.”  The measures are designed to encourage renewables, new nuclear and carbon capture and storage technologies, including a new system of low-carbon generation revenue support, an Emissions Performance Standard and a Carbon Price Floor.  Gas will continue to play an “important role” in the transition to a low carbon economy, with a strategy on gas due in the fall. 

Critics have warned that measures will favor the “Big Six” energy companies, at the expense of renewables, and favor nuclear power, antagonizing Liberal Democrat supporters.  Labour Leader Ed Miliband, said action is required to drive investment in energy but consumers need a “better deal” by breaking up the way the “Big Six” work.    The CBI, the UK business lobbying organization, welcomed the publication of the draft legislation but said we are “still some way” from the detailed picture to “unlock” private investment.   Green Alliance, a leading environmental think tank, said the Bill needed more “clarity and simplicity” for investors.  Consumer groups have warned of rising household bills, however, HMG argues the reforms will help reduce the expected increase.  The draft Bill is now subject to scrutiny by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, before a full Bill is introduced to Parliament.  The Government plans for the legislation to reach the statute books by 2013.

In other news this week, research published by Oxford Economics, commissioned by the Government, showed that moving to low carbon forms of electricity generation could halve the negative impacts of energy price shocks.  Energy Secretary, Edward Davey said: “The more we can shift to alternative fuels, and use energy efficiently, the more we can ensure that our economy does not become hostage to far-flung events and to the volatility of market forces.”  On May 23, Energy Minister Charles Hendry gave a speech on energy policy in Aberdeen, claiming that reforms will be better for the environment, consumers and energy security.   Climate Change Minister Greg Barker was in Norwich on May 21 to open an Eco Community Education Centre to help deliver zero carbon homes. 

Finally, the watercourses that will be used in the London 2012 Olympic Games have scored well in the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) annual survey of bathing water.   The EEA said the Serpentine fed by the River Thames, host to the triathlon and marathon swimming events, and the sailing venues and other watercourse which will be used “are looking good.”  And on the subject of swimming, British TV presenter Ben Fogle has announced plans to attempt to swim the Atlantic next year.  Swimming from the U.S. to Cornwall in the South West of the UK, Fogle will be working with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Plastic Oceans Foundation to highlight the fragile state of our oceans.

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