Collaboration, not lobbying, critical to delivering net zero

Low carbon technologies must focus their efforts on collaborating, rather than lobbying against each other if the UK’s net zero target is to be met, a BEIS representative has said.

Speaking at the opening keynote discussion at this week’s Solar & Storage Live exhibition in Birmingham, Matthew Billson, head of strategy for energy innovation at BEIS, said that the government’s decision to adopt a legally binding net zero target could stand to end any potential jostling for space between clean energy firms.

While the previous target – which mandated for an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 – allowed for some debate as to what kind of role technologies like renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage played, committing to removing emissions entirely meant every technology would have to make meaningful contributions.

With that element of competition removed, the clean power sectors must now work together and put an end to any cross-sector lobbying or infighting, Billson said.

There will also be an impetus on the clean energy sector making decarbonisation “as simple and attractive as possible” for consumers to engage. Billson said that while challenger suppliers like Bulb, Octopus and OVO had made great strides in engaging with their customer base on the subject of decarbonisation, incumbents such as E.On had not.

However, one attendee put it to Billson that collaboration was also needed in the halls of Westminster, raising the prospect that departments like HM Treasury had enacted policies that may have counteracted other clean energy initiatives.

From 1 October 2019, VAT added to domestic solar and storage installations will rise from 5% to 20% in certain cases, a decision the UK’s distributed power sector has attacked for creating yet more obstacles to decarbonisation.

Billson conceded that it was necessary that all sectors of governments must “work better” to stimulate decarbonisation, and must indeed find the right mix of policies to achieve that, but was quick to stress that HMG had been pressing ahead with its domestic agenda against a backdrop of international uncertainty caused by the continuing Brexit negotiations.