The Environmental Audit Committee report, ‘Accelerating the transition from fossil fuels and securing energy supplies’, was published today and recommends that the Government mobilises to improve energy efficiency as a cornerstone of its fight to reduce carbon emissions.
The UK remains dependent on fossil fuels for 78% of its energy needs. As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK has been exposed to the biggest global fossil fuel price shock since the 1970s. While the Government’s British Energy Security Strategy sets out ambitions for low-carbon electricity generation, there remain significant gaps.
The EAC is calling for a national mobilisation, or ‘war effort’, on energy efficiency to reduce household energy bills, cut climate-changing emissions and reduce reliance on fossil fuel imports. The Government’s Energy Price Guarantee has saved four million households from spending 10% of their income on energy this January, but Ministers missed a window of opportunity to accelerate energy efficiency installations in the warmer months of 2022.
The Chancellor’s recent announcements of an Energy Efficiency Taskforce and further energy efficiency investment from 2025 is welcome, but those in fuel poverty cannot afford three winters of delay. In England alone, over 13 million (or 59%) of homes in England are below EPC rated C. The number of UK energy efficiency installations peaked in 2012 at 2.3 million, yet in 2021, fewer than 100,000 upgrades were installed. The Committee is calling for at least one million energy efficiency installations a year by 2025, with an ambitious target of 2.5 million properties a year by the end of the decade.
The Committee is calling for greater focus on the potential of onshore wind to be rolled out rapidly in the short term, and tidal energy to contribute to the UK’s energy security baseload in the long term. When the Government publishes its updated Net Zero Strategy in the Spring, ambitious targets for onshore wind and tidal energy would be vital to send the right demand signals to industry. Further, developers should be required to fit solar photovoltaics (PV) on homes to help achieve the Government’s ambition of 70GW of solar generating capacity by 2035.
Transitioning away from fossil fuels
To continue to demonstrate its international climate leadership, the Committee is calling for the Government to set a clear date for ending new oil and gas licensing rounds.
The MPs are also calling for faster action from the oil and gas sector to reduce its operational emissions produced during oil and gas extraction. More rapid action will be required to reduce production emissions by 68% in line with the Government’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. The Committee is calling on the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) to insist on the electrification of all new oil and gas projects in the 33rd licencing round and is also calling for routine flaring to be banned outright. NSTA should publish a league table of the best and worst performing companies, so that progress can be clearly monitored.
Furthermore, the Committee also recommends that the Department for Transport consults on measures to improve energy security, reduce oil demand and cut climate-changing emissions from transport.
Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said, “To reduce the UK’s demand on fossil fuels, we must stop consuming more than we need. We must fix our leaky housing stock, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and wastes our constituents’ hard-earned cash: we must make homes warmer and retain heat for longer. The Government’s welcome new Energy Efficiency Taskforce can lead a national mobilisation to install energy efficiency upgrades, which we would like to see achieve an initial target of a million homes a year and more than double this by the end of the decade. To help fund this, the Government should funnel some of the revenue from the new Energy Profits Levy to crack on with the task at the earliest opportunity.
“Bold action is needed now. The last year, with Russia’s aggression in Europe choking energy supplies, has shown us just how vulnerable our over-reliance on imported fossil fuels can make us. The Committee has today set out a number of clear recommendations to drive real change: I hope the Government will act swiftly to implement them.”
The Committee has called for an update of the British Energy Security Strategy to be published in Spring 2023 indicating progress in reducing reliance on Russian imports, securing energy supplies and improving energy efficiency.
Responding to the publication of the report, E.ON UK CEO Michael Lewis, said, “This report is yet another authoritative voice calling for a greater nationwide energy efficiency effort as the quickest way to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, permanently protect households from volatile oil and gas prices and to cut climate-changing emissions.
“The money that was promised won’t be seen until 2025 – effectively kicking the can down the road until after a general election. Energy efficiency numbers have fallen drastically since the ‘cut the green crap’ days almost a decade ago, with millions of homes missing out on upgraded loft, cavity and solid wall insulation. Many households are paying far more for their energy needs and we must reverse that trend and deliver the £9 billion in support promised by the Government’s 2019 election manifesto.
“It’s in the Government’s gift to ensure the new expanded Energy Company Obligation scheme can start delivering for people from April and we need confirmation of the design of ECO plus as soon as possible so our supply chains can gear up in readiness.”