The UK has delayed a raft of decisions needed to spur investment in clean-energy technologies from offshore wind to nuclear power, underscoring the challenges faced by the government after the country’s decision to leave the EU.
The newly-formed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy may delay until next year publication of the fifth carbon budget, a key plan setting out how the UK will meet its carbon reduction targets for 2030, climate change minister Nick Hurd has said.
The four ministers at the department have said they don’t want to be rushed into making choices that could shape the country’s post-Brexit economy.
“I think there’s some flexibility around the publication. It’s more important to get this right than to rush something out that doesn’t hit the target,” Mr Hurd said at a climate-change event in London.
Investors await publication of the report as a clear signal about how the country will meet its target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 57% compared to 1990 levels.
A delay risks complicating the job of secretary of state Greg Clark, who is responsible for drawing investments in new infrastructure while at the same time economically curbing carbon emissions.
The department has already delayed the first of three planned auctions that will award contracts for new offshore wind farms and other low-carbon energy projects.
Bidding for the so-called contracts for difference is now due to take place in 2017. The previous energy minister, Andrea Leadsom, had expected the first auction at the end of this year.
“The renewables industry has now been waiting for two years since the last contract for difference auction,” said Stuart Pocock, the chief operating officer at London’s Renewable Energy Association.
Clarification of the timeline would “provide some much-needed certainty in these political times,” he said. The delay to the carbon budget plan and auction would add to the growing list of infrastructure projects being re-evaluated since the UK’s decision to abandon the EU in June.
One of prime minister Theresa May’s first acts was to delay a decision on building two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset, just hours after developer Electricite de France agreed to invest in the €21.5bn project.
The government’s clean energy policy “now amounts to no more than delayed decisions, broken promises, and projects on ice,” said Barry Gardiner, Labour’s shadow energy and climate change secretary. n Bloomberg
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