Energy and Climate Priorities for Brexit Negotiations

Brexit Negotiations

With the dust starting to settle after Britain voting to exit the EU and the process of separation underway, it is essential that the government ensure important energy and climate change policies remain unscathed, and that the right deals are made during the negotiations, in order for Britain to remain a leader in the low-carbon field.

A range of experts gathered recently to present their views on what should be the energy and climate priorities in the impending brexit negotiations to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee. During the meeting some of the risks and opportunities around energy efficiency and renewables were outlined:

Underlying Concerns

One of the underlying concerns expressed was the sustainable energy policy rollbacks such as the scrapping of the Green Deal and reduced support for renewable energy that the UK have recently imposed. Historically, the UK has regularly exceeded EU energy and climate change requirements. However, the rollbacks mean that this will no longer be an easy task.

This underlying issue reinforces the need to get it right as the government negotiates the country’s way out of the EU.

Retaining Positives

There is an abundance of EU directives that the country would benefit from keeping.

The European Commission’s Winter Package

Most importantly, experts urge the government to implement proposals in the European Commission’s Winter Package which provides a number of recommendations that would help the country to ensure it’s place as a leader in the low-carbon field.

These recommendations include a 30% efficiency target for 2030 and recognise the right for community energy groups and individuals to sell any surplus energy they generate back to the grid at market value.

EPCs and New Building Standards

Two of the other key items that the committee want to see preserved include Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and new buildings standards. EPCs provide a valuable tool for engaging homeowners in their energy use and providing them recommendations on how to make their home more energy efficient.

With regards to new building regulations, the European regulation that requires near-zero energy standards by the end of 2020 is the only green policy driver for new-builds in the UK.

Product Standards

EU product standards have gone a long way to achieving considerable savings. It is estimated that for every £1 that has been invested in energy efficiency, or product appliance regulations, there is around a £4 return. This shows that, thanks to EU standards, the energy efficiency of products and appliances have increased by around 30%.

Not including plans to maintain or build on these standards as part of the negotiation would be foolish from both an energy-saving and a business outlook.

What are the Concerns?

The EU has been an important driving force when it comes to the UK’s energy and climate ambition and there is no evidence to suggest that it can maintain the same level of ambition on our own.

Sharing Knowledge

Members of the committee expressed the importance for the UK to maintain access, and continue to contribute to, cross-continental knowledge sharing in order to stay competitive in the growing market for low-carbon goods and services.

Funding is Key

The committee points out that the UK has received a lot of funding from the EU, including around 15% the funding available from of Horizon 2020 – the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme to date. Although Non-EU countries can be associate members of the scheme, this involves being part of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA). Depending on how the government negotiate a departure, this may be something that could be ruled out, particularly if the UK chose to pursue the ‘hard Brexit’ route.

Energy efficiency-focussed projects in the UK have also received considerable support from the European Regional development fund (ERDF) that has made schemes such as the Arbed scheme – a strategic energy performance investment programme run by the Welsh Government – possible.

Remaining Positive

Despite all the concerns, many feel that Brexit offers the UK the opportunity to pursue climate change and energy policies further than any before.

If it is provided with the appropriate support, the framework for climate change government is already established and can ensure that new policies are sufficient and effective in meeting the country’s international obligations to tackle climate change.

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