Policy for Energy and the Environment – Looking Forward to 2019

The cogs in Westminster and Whitehall have continued to churn over the past 2 years despite the seemingly endless Brexit impasse. It’s hard to say if the next vote on the 29th January will be the light at the end of the tunnel, or just the start of another tunnel. So, in the meantime we turn our focus to energy and the environment by considering some past and future policy events that are a little more agreeable.

Heat

The future of those that have a connection to the gas-grid is likely to be determined by the rate of innovation and scalability of a few key technologies. However, the conversation remains more open for homes and businesses that are not connected to the gas-grid, in 2018 the ground was prepared, and 2019 looks to be the year where new policy is formed to ensure that regulation matches the ambition to fully decarbonise heat in buildings by 2050.

What to watch: The Government has made it clear that there will be a follow-up consultation to last year’s future framework for heat in off-grid buildings call for evidence, providing stakeholders the chance to put forward perspectives on proposed future policy, Part L of the Building Regulations, and skills and training.

Transport

As electric vehicle technology matures, firmer commitments are put in place to end the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles (by as early as 2021 in Costa Rica). In July last year, the UK’s Road to Zero was published, which outlines the Government’s expectation for the majority of new cars and vans to be 100% zero emission by 2040. The Automated Electric Vehicles Act was published at the same time to give greater impetus for the roll-out of electric charging infrastructure, and updates to the Plug-in Car Grant were announced in November which target the uptake of the cleanest vehicles.

What to watch: The City of London has consulted on an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) only street – the first step towards a ULEV only country! However, market indicators such as cost reductions and EV uptake rates may be the best indicator of progress.

Clean Air

Air pollution, and the urgent need to reduce it, isn’t a new to topic in  the UK’s collective consciousness –  the WHO’s 2016 report was particularly influential in awareness raising, and on 14th January 2019, the Government released its new Clean Air Strategy. It states that by 2022, only the cleanest wood-burning stoves will be available for sale, and wet logs and the most-polluting fuels will be phased out. It also includes ambitious long-term targets in line with WHO’s own recommendations.

What to watch: A response to the consultation on the Renewable Heat Incentive: biomass combustion in urban areas, and a new consultation on the eligibility of coal-to-biomass installations to receive Contracts for Difference funding is expected to be released shortly.

Waste

In 2018, public awareness on how rubbish we’re doing at managing our waste increased – there was talk of a latte levy although it never materialised. However, there was a high-profile response to concerns in the Autumn Budget with the announcement of a new tax that will be introduced on plastic packaging that is not at least 30% recycled from April 2022 – subject to consultation.

What to watch: 2019 may see progress towards increasing the rate of recycling domestic food waste, although not before consultation – with a reaffirmed commitment to the Bioeconomy announced in 2018, our biomass waste may be about to become more valuable. A bioenergy strategy is expected in mid-2019.

Environmental attitudes have undoubtedly improved over the past year, with our collective line of questioning shifting from “what should the Government be doing?” to “what can I do to contribute?” – perhaps best characterised by new attitudes on vegetarianism and plastic consumption that have gained traction in 2018.

UK Google search terms “ocean plastic” (above) and “veganism” (below) peaked in 2017.

With a range of policy commitments and more ambitious targets being rolled-out across sectors, we are seeing a structural shift towards an intrinsically cleaner society. That being said, pressure remains on policy makers to keep driving the transition forward, and Ecuity will continue to work with businesses and the Government to support this.

For more information on the above topics get in touch: Alex.taylor@ecuity.com


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