Key organisations in the sustainability sector have expressed concerns and disappointment following the U.K. Chancellor’s mini budget believing it failed to deliver appropriate measures to safeguard homes and businesses from rocketing energy prices.
While there is support for Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s measures to fast track offshore wind development, many pointed to missed opportunities on other forms of clean energy, as well as energy efficiency.
EcoAct’s chief executive Stuart Lemmon said: ‘Growth needs to be decoupled from carbon emissions, and so we’d suggest if the Chancellor wants to pursue a growth agenda, it should be green too. The lack of sustainable investment measured in the statement means the onus falls onto businesses to take the lead and keep ambitions of 1.5C alive.
‘By 2023, financial institutions and listed companies in the UK will be required to publish their net-zero transition plans, however currently only 36% of the FTSE 100 has set a science-based target (SBT) for Scope 3 emissions reductions. These often represent the majority of an organisation’s total greenhouse gas emissions. This announcement represents an opportunity for corporates to step up to the plate and demonstrate the leadership and best practices to enable transformative change across all sectors of the economy. Businesses that are proactive on net-zero will find themselves in a position of competitive advantage in the years to come and the certainty provided by this announcement should serve as a catalyst for ambitious action now.’
The Association for Decentralised Energy’s (ADE) energy efficiency policy manager Chris Friedler said while the announcement provides an extra £1bn for energy efficiency over three years, household bills are still ‘significantly higher than before the gas crisis’.
He added: ‘Shorter-term bailouts that fail to reduce the amount of gas homes need to keep warm will lead to higher costs to the public purse overall. The Government must build upon this and look to more ambitious short-term funding for energy efficiency, as well as long-term targets and delivery mechanisms to prevent the gas crisis from affecting households again in the future.’
Friends of the Earth’s head of policy Mike Childs said: ‘It’s good that there are a few offshore wind projects in the mix – though a relatively small number – but alongside these, there should have been a long list of onshore wind sites and solar farms because they are quick to build and an incredibly cheap source of energy.
‘What’s also missing from the Growth Plan is any assessment of its climate impacts. Instead, it works as a blueprint for ripping up important environmental safeguards and pursuing economic growth at any cost, which is the last thing we need faced with a climate and ecological crisis that is already devastating the planet.’
The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology’s (REA) director of policy Frank Gordon said: ‘Much of the innovation and growth promoted by this statement would be expedited if the Government passes the Energy Bill, which would open up opportunities for investment in areas such as energy efficiency, carbon capture, heat networks, hydrogen and further clean technologies – all of which would deliver sizeable benefits to new investment zones.
‘Renewables are the cheapest form of generation and best route to delivering energy security, providing long-term relief from the ongoing energy crisis.’
The Building Research Establishment’s chief executive Gillian Charlesworth said she was disappointed to see that the mini-budget contained no measures to improve the energy efficiency of homes and buildings.
She said: ‘While the Government’s Energy Price Guarantee is a welcome intervention to protect vulnerable households this winter, there is no guarantee that the volatile global gas market will steady any time soon. We need long-term solutions to the energy price crisis which end our dependence on foreign supplies of fossil fuels, reduce overall energy demand, and support the drive to net-zero.
‘Retrofitting our building stock is an immediate and cost-effective solution that can deliver this. Heat and energy use in our buildings makes up a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, and we are rapidly running out of time to address this if we are to meet our net zero obligations by 2050. Setting out a clear and credible plan to decarbonise our homes and buildings is an immediate step the Government can take to tackle the cost of living crisis, act on climate change and demonstrate global leadership.’
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said the statement was a ‘climate-wrecking, action delaying budget for the benefit of the Chancellor’s fossil fuel friends’.
She called for a ‘green retrofit revolution’, and a stop to fracking and new oil and gas licenses.
Green Alliance’s head of economy Sam Alvis said: ‘The Government wants to boost economic growth, but the tax cuts and the spending aren’t being targeted at the greatest potential for productivity and GDP growth: green technology and clean energy.
‘Making it easier to build railways, energy and associated infrastructure will be vital to delivering net-zero and growth. But if we use those reforms to deliver outdated tech like fracking, it will hold us back.’
Jess Ralston, senior analyst at the energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: ‘If prices stay high, the Government’s gas subsidy bill would be several times the investment needed to get all 28 million homes in Britain properly insulated. Boosting the ECO scheme could well end up being cost-neutral on Treasury with insulation cutting gas demand and so the overall price tag of the bailout.
‘The ban on onshore wind – which around 8 in 10 people support – has been a major anomaly in British energy policy given it’s both cheap and popular with the public. So a decision to lift the ban suggests the new government has listened to the experts and understands building more British renewables reduces our reliance on costly gas and so brings down bills.”
IPPR’s associate director of energy, climate, housing and infrastructure, Luke Murphy, said: ‘The Chancellor’s statement offered neither the policies, investment, or strategy to realise the huge opportunities to create prosperity that delivering net-zero and restoring nature offer.
‘There were welcome albeit small steps on energy efficiency and depending on the detail, onshore wind, but in other areas, the government is going in the opposite direction. It is removing the moratorium on fracking, expediting licenses to drill for more climate destroying and expensive oil and gas, and proposing to rip up environmental protections.
‘Instead of offering billions of pounds of tax cuts for the richest that will do little to increase long-term growth, the Government should have invested in projects to deliver the transition to a cleaner economy from home energy efficiency to clean transport.’
WWF UK’s executive director of advocacy and campaigns Kate Norgrove said the mini budget failed to address the root cause of our energy bill crisis – ‘our dependence on outdated, polluting fossil fuels’.
She said: ‘If the Government is serious about boosting the UK economy it needs to stop blowing hot and cold on tackling the climate and nature emergency. The only route to a growing and resilient economy is to invest in net-zero by scaling up renewables, insulating our homes and supercharging the shift to nature-friendly farming. Anything less would be a betrayal of people and the planet.’
The Energy Saving Trust’s head of policy Stew Horne said: ‘The Growth Plan is welcome confirmation of support for homes and businesses in the face of the worst energy crises in a generation. Yet there is still no plan to reduce energy demand that will in turn reduce gas imports and lower energy bills now and in the future.
‘The surest way to improve energy security and bring down bills is to use less energy wherever we can. Alongside the supply-side measures the Government has announced, we need a much clearer strategy for demand-side measures, including crucially, energy efficiency. The extension of the ECO scheme and additional funds for the Public Sector Decarbonisation fund are welcome steps in the right direction, but more action is needed including outstanding Government manifesto commitments on energy efficiency.
‘We have been calling, alongside industry, for a clear pathway to reduce household, business and public sector energy use and a concrete plan to ensure energy security and reduce reliance on gas imports. This should include a nationwide programme of retrofitting homes, supported by a comprehensive and impartial national energy advice service.
‘In addition, the Government has made it clear that they wish to stimulate investment across Britain to spur growth. Investing in businesses, technologies and sectors that will deliver energy security and are net zero-aligned is the surest way to achieve sustainable and sustained growth across the UK, while driving down carbon emissions. The prioritisation of electric vehicle charging schemes and the commitment to unlocking the potential of onshore wind in England are both a step forward. However, much more needs to be done to accelerate these programmes, including investment in energy storage.
‘We call for these areas to be addressed. We can’t afford to miss another opportunity at such a crucial time.’