In what was the first Conservative majority Queen’s Speech since 1996, Queen Elizabeth II announced the Energy Bill, which forms part of the new legislative programme for the new parliament. The ten minute speech, which gave only two mentions of energy and the environment, placed an emphasis on ensuring the supply of energy to families and businesses over reducing carbon emissions, following Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd’s pledge to ‘keep the lights on’ and power the economy.
Firstly, the Energy Bill proposes to ‘maximise’ the recovery of oil and gas from the North Sea by transferring regulatory powers for the oil and gas industry away from Amber Rudd and establishing the Oil and Gas Authority. This independent regulator would be ‘charged with the asset stewardship and regulation of domestic oil and gas recovery’.
The second main purpose of the bill, in line with the Conservative manifesto, is to grant local communities the power to make the final decision regarding offshore windfarm applications. The bill also refers to the upcoming UN summit in Paris as an event central to the Tory government’s plans to “seek effective global collaboration to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change.”
John Thompson, chief executive of Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC), said: “Although we are disappointed that the important issues of energy and climate change didn’t feature more heavily in the Queen’s Speech this year, we’re optimistic about the government’s plans to ensure the supply of reliable and affordable energy to homes and businesses around the UK.
The UN summit to be held in Paris later this year offers a great opportunity to hammer out a global agreement on combating climate change, however, it’s clear that a key priority for the new secretary needs to be making the Green Deal scheme more accessible to smaller businesses. Our latest research indicates both a lack of awareness among consumers surrounding renewable heat technologies and a lack of drive to invest in them, both of which act as barriers in the effort to move away from fossil fuels. We intend to make it a high priority to influence the government to review its policies on promoting green initiatives to consumers and its consumer faced accreditation schemes in order to better reflect the needs of small businesses.”