Stephen Gilbert writes … Liberal Democrats should be proud of the Energy Bill

Energy-bills-006The Energy Bill will, today and tomorrow, be  going through its Report Stage and Third Reading in the Commons.  Ed Davey set out clearly on Lib Dem Voice why this is so important for decarbonising our power sector and keeping on the lights at an affordable price for consumers.  As a party we should be pleased that there is general cross-party support for the bill as it is vital that we maintain as far as we are able cross party consensus to provide the certainty for investors for our transition path.  The issue that has been most controversial is whether there should be a 2030 power sector decarbonisation target of 50-100g per kwh. My colleague Andrew George argued a few days ago on Lib Dem Voice why he will be supporting the Tim Yeo amendment which seeks to legislate for this.

Some of the proponents of the amendment (not including Andrew!) like to give the impression that a decarbonisation target was dropped from the Bill after pressure from George Osborne, that it is essential if we are to get green jobs and to decarbonise the power sector and that this is the last chance to stop the dash the gas.

In fact when Ed became Secretary of State there were no plans to have a power sector decarbonisation target in the bill.  It was through intense effort on his part that this was forced onto the Government agenda in the face of huge scepticism and opposition.  As part of the cross government energy agreement he was successful in gaining the power to set a decarbonisation target for 2030 in 2016 at the same time as the 5th carbon budget, which covers the same period, is set.  The agreement which Ed reached was entirely consistent with Lib Dem party policy set at the Autumn 2012 conference for us to set a decarbonisation target.  Now it is no secret that we would have liked to be setting a decarbonisation target earlier, but in coalition you cannot always get everything you want immediately.

What we have got is the power to set the world’s first decarbonisation target for the electricity sector fourteen years ahead of the target date of 2030.  Are critics of this compromise agreement seriously suggesting that setting a target 14 years in advance is such a disaster when, for example the 2020 renewables target was set 12 years in advance and we will not be setting the 5th carbon budget till 12 years before that starts in 2028?

And let’s not forget that no party, not even the Greens, mentioned having such a target in their manifesto in 2010.  In fact this power to set a target was not the only thing in the energy agreement which Ed secured which should be welcomed by all Lib Dems – a tripling of support for renewable energy by 2020, inclusion in the energy bill of the UK’s first ever support for electricity demand reduction as well as the electricity market reform proposals to secure a low carbon future.  And more recently he has persuaded colleagues across government to press the EU to agree to a 50% reduction in Greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 –the most ambitious stance of any European government.

As Nick Clegg said when the Conservatives broke the agreement to reform the Lords “when you break agreements there are consequences” and I, for one, am not prepared to put at risk all the major achievements which we have made to secure a low carbon future.  I will be supporting the government’s energy bill in the Commons and opposing the Tim Yeo amendment.

* Stephen Gilbert is Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay and chairs the Regional Aviation All Party Parliamentary Group

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  • sorry once again this green thing getting out of hand you are destroying are ability to compete in the world mad carbon targets and taxs killing industry so wrong nice aim but not practical

  • David Pollard 3rd Jun '13 - 7:21pm

    The problem with long term targets is that industry ignores them until the last minute, then claims they would be too expensive to implement. The insulation of domestic properties is an excellent example. The law which was passed requires the building industry to produce ‘zero carbon’ homes by 2016. All the intermediate targets for insulation standards are voluntary with the result that homes being built TODAY are hardly more insulated than when the law was passed. Consider the alternative approach with the clean up of our rivers. The environment agency was given the power to impose intermediate standards which will eventually lead to the highest quality. As a result we are almost there and hardly anyone has noticed how much it has cost.

  • David Allen 3rd Jun '13 - 11:28pm

    St Augustine was the pioneer of long term targets.

    “Lord, make me chaste – but not yet!”

  • Anthony Hawkes 4th Jun '13 - 6:23am

    I suppose that, being part of a coalition, we have to be philosophical about this. If Tim Yeo’s amendment has a chance of succeeding then I wish we could support it, but I guess other political factors are in play. Even with no knowledge of energy production, it would seem to me that because of our diverse sources of renewables, we could become a world leader in renewable technology which would surely be a growth area in the future. With this export potential, couldn’t the Tories be convinced of this from a profit point of view, even if they don’t care particularly about the green agenda?

  • jenny barnes 4th Jun '13 - 8:59am

    anthony “couldn’t the Tories be convinced of this from a profit point of view, even if they don’t care particularly about the green agenda?”

    Unfortunately, there is a relationship between right wing views and anti-environmentalism. There was a recent study where people with right wing views were considerably less willing to buy compact fluorescent light bulbs when they were labelled as “environmentally friendly”. Possibly they think concern for the environment is a horrid lefty anti-capitalist plot.

  • Alex Meredith 4th Jun '13 - 9:21am

    Well said Stephen. Let’s get behind this bill.

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