UK Energy Research Centre discusses the Energy Bill, shale Gas and what to look out for in 2013.
2012 has been a crucial year for energy, with frequent personnel changes, controversial appointments and personality clashes at DECC, spiralling energy bills, allegations of gas price fixing, and seemingly one policy initiative after another.
The UK Energy Research Centre has been actively engaging with all of these initiatives and seeking to provide evidence-based, informed insights into what can often seem a confusing, contentious and contradictory area of policy.
One of our first major outputs for 2012 was a response to the Government consultation on the Green Deal initiative. Led by UKERC Co-Director Dr Nick Eyre from the University of Oxford, this welcomed the proposal to stimulate the use of solid wall insulation but raised serious concerns that the rationale for some decisions has not been sufficiently well covered, and that key issues, such as how to prevent the “Big 6” energy companies from dominating the market, or overcome barriers preventing local authorities from engaging in local partnerships, had not been addressed.
Our ‘Carbon Capture and Storage: Realising the potential?’ report was released in April at a critical time for CCS, following the announcement of a government competition to develop commercial scale CCS technologies, and the publication by DECC of a CCS roadmap. The report revealed a tough road ahead for CCS but advised that most uncertainties facing the technologies could be resolved.
The eagerly awaited Energy Bill was introduced to Parliament in November. Although experts, including UKERC’s, have different views, we were generally supportive of the principle of long-run, fixed price contracts for low carbon generation, and the new levy control framework, but also called for greater clarity to reassure investors, and for the inclusion of mechanisms to reduce energy demand.
UKERC responded to the decision to allow shale gas exploration to continue, viewed by some as controversial, using research undertaken by our by leading gas expert Professor Michael Bradshaw from the University of Leicester, and an earlier UKERC review into shale gas resources undertaken at the request of the European Commission. Our evidence showed that exploration is essential to accurately assess the shale gas resource in the UK, monitor the environmental impacts and assess the effectiveness of the existing regulatory regime.
2013 will see the launch of UKERC research projects into public attitudes towards transforming the UK energy system, ways of estimating the future electricity costs of different technologies, and a substantive revision of energy system scenarios in 2050, which updates a previous report in 2009 to include developments in the sector since, as well as two key projects examining both energy in a global context, and the risks and uncertainties facing UK energy policy.