There are 1,000 pages in the new Energy White Paper and this is the Government’s fourth such paper since its “Creating a Low Carbon Economy” was published in 2003.
It is the first white paper to be produced, however, under the auspices of the Department for Energy and Climate Change which was launched last year (October 2008) under the ministerial stewardship of Ed Miliband who is tasked with bringing about the UK’s ‘Energy Revolution’.
Not the easiest of tasks, bearing in mind:
- the current economic climate, which has a major effect on the required levels of significant investment
- the cumbersome UK planning system and its general lack of expediency
- infrastructure concerns, such as the electricity grid and connectivity issues
The likely result of these issues is that targets will be difficult to achieve.
The announcement in the Budget (22 April) of additional funding for the renewable energy industry brought a welcome focus on the importance of the sector but did little to address the practical concerns of development experts in this and associated fields, says Andrew Watkin, head of Carter Jonas' Energy Team.
Andrew, who spearheads the firm’s work with landowners and developers involved in the renewables sector, welcomed the Budget’s £525 million of new support for offshore wind farm projects whose financial arrangements can be completed by 2011 and also the £4 billion of new capital from the European Investment Bank.
Yet Andrew and his team remain sceptical about whether these funding measures, and others flagged-up, will be adequate to promote the necessary growth and investment in the sector at a quick enough pace.
‘The UK is said to have one of the best wind resources in Europe and, with onshore and offshore energy development opportunities, we really should be selling the UK as the place to be for renewable energy development to investors.
‘This UK selling point will, in turn and in time, create significant employment opportunities as outlined in the White Paper. But we must have the right foundations in place upon which to build our renewables business – otherwise the lights will flicker and falter.’
‘We are in a reasonably strong position to be leaders in the low-carbon future technologies but infrastructure issues alone – such as improvements required to increase the capacity and capability of the electricity supply and distribution grid even for the current scale of plans for renewable developments – will require significant capital expenditure across the UK.’
Carter Jonas’ energy experts are also concerned about the ability of the planning system to bring forward renewable developments in any meaningful timescale that will make an impact.
Andrew Watkin continues:
‘The UK is the first country committing to legally binding targets for a 34 per cent reduction in CO² emissions by 2020.
‘To help achieve this, there are Government requirements for zero-carbon residential and commercial buildings. Added to this, the private development sector is also charged with providing levels of social housing and public amenity that are barely sustainable in a buoyant market.
‘It appears that the development sector, whether it be for residential housing or renewable energy, is being expected to bear a financial burden for all the country’s public infrastructure requirements.'
Carter Jonas’ energy experts are calling for planning systems to be streamlined, suitable areas for energy development identified strategically rather than by piecemeal and, above all, development must be sustainable in all senses of the word, including a sound financial return.
‘Otherwise, just who would want to take on the risk?’ asks Andrew Watkin.