UK Government unveils energy and green economy bill

The UK Government unveiled its plans for an energy and green economy bill in the Queen’s Speech at the opening of Parliament yesterday but leaves as many questions as answers.

The bill will form part of the new coalition government’s actions for 2010, which will also include scrapping airport expansion plans and draft legislation to construct a new high-speed rail line.

The new energy bill will build on some of the groundwork laid by the outgoing Labour government, including a “Green deal” to improve the energy efficiency of the nation’s homes and businesses.

A ‘pay as you save’ loan scheme will enable householders to pay for the installation of energy efficiency measures out of the savings on their energy bills.

But the Queen’s speech – nor the Department of Energy and Climate Change – specified how much households will be able to apply for. In their manifesto, the Conservatives pledged £6500 per home, while the Liberal Democrats had suggested a figure of around £10,000.

The bill “may” also include measures to establish a green investment bank to support low-carbon projects, require suppliers to provide more and clearer information on energy bills, regulate carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations and continue the Labour government’s plans to develop a smart grid and roll out smart meters.

But the visit by new Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne to Aberdeen last week signals strong support for continued exploitation of North Sea oil and gas fields.

“The UK’s indigenous oil and gas continues to play a crucial part in our energy security, even as we aspire to a low carbon future,” he said. “I am committed to make sure that we have a licensing regime and investment environment that attracts quality companies and investment to fully exploit the remaining potential.”

However, he did add that it is a scandal that the UK has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world, but is one of the worst at harnessing it.

“There are a lot of opportunities in the rapidly expanding renewable energy sector which need to be taken advantage of,” he said. “The renewables industry will come of age under this Government.”

Environmental groups, however, have concerns over the lack of detail about the proposed legislation.

“It is essential that the new legislation delivers on the coalition’s election promises, such as a Green Investment Bank and pollution standards for power stations – saying they ‘may’ be included in the Energy Bill is just not good enough,” says Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins.

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Related stories:
UK coalition unveils details of energy and climate change plan (21-May)
New UK Prime Minister promises “greenest government ever” (17-May)
New UK coalition government unveils ambitions for low-carbon economy (13-May)

26 May 2010