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A localised green future- the energy white paper and joined-up thinking

This week saw the publication of the long-awaited energy white paper, probably the most comprehensive overview of how the Government plans to clean up the British energy system and achieve net zero by their 2050 deadline.

By our reckoning, no fewer than eight energy related consultations are to be anticipated in 2021:

  • On whether it’s appropriate to end gas grid connections to new homes after 2025
  • On creating a framework to introduce opt in switching of energy tariffs (by March 2021)
  • On how an opt-out tariff switching system might be tested for future use (by March 2021)
  • On potential changes to the market framework to encourage development of innovative tariffs and products (stakeholder engagement throughout 2021 before formal consultation)
  • On ensuring the retail market regulatory framework adequately covers the wider market (by spring 2021)
  • On regulatory measures to improve domestic energy performance
  • On how to enable mortgage lenders to support improvement of domestic energy performance
  • On potential rebates under various energy saving schemes such as ECO, EHD and the Green Homes Grant

The importance of tackling energy issues at both national and local levels is recognised, and the paper identifies that the Government will work with local communities to ensure that their energy needs are met. In fact, localism seems to be a significant part of the plans. There is much talk of local markets, Energy Local Clubs and local energy systems.

With all this talk, it seems the Government has high expectations of local authorities in playing their part in the move towards greener energy and to meet those expectations will require local authorities to engage well in their communities to determine their citizens’ needs, their capacity to deliver, and to collect and review ideas from across localities as to how to meet the challenges of the climate crisis.

For the Government, the big challenge may be in bringing the national and local together in order to ensure that the country is all pulling in the same direction. The sort of joined up approach that is needed will require a clever marshalling and integration of resources at all levels. Resources too may also prove a challenge. With councils having faced significant reductions in funding since the millennium, and the country facing further financial doldrums in the aftermath of both Brexit and covid, the Government will have to ensure that it can provide adequate support- could we see a very green-issues oriented budget in March to fuel the green recovery?

The upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow next year puts a heavy onus on the Government to show a good hand, and demonstrate a forward thinking and adequate response to the climate emergency. It would not be a good look to fall short in our hosting year. Hopefully this might focus minds in the right places and to the right directions.

tCI is working extensively on green issues and the place of consultation and engagement in supporting new green policy making. We have already launched our Green Recovery Service and more is coming in the New Year. Inquiries about our environmental services should be directed to Sheena Ahmed at sheenaa@consultationinstitute.org

About the Author

Stephen serves as the Institute’s Legal and Parliamentary Officer. Before joining the Institute Stephen studied Law at Bangor University and pursued a Masters’ degree in Aviation and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal. After this, he returned to London and was called to the bar in 2016 at the Honorable Society of Gray’s Inn, before deciding not to go into practice and move towards public policy work instead. Within the Institute, Stephen provides legal, political and policy analysis of UK and global current affairs of interest to consultors and consultees.

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