SNP and UK Labour energy plans

The Scottish Government’s plan for the coming year includes few surprises for the utilities sector. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also announces his new energy policy.

Unsurprisingly, the focus is on low carbon energy provision with a new Energy Strategy for Scotland in 2017. One of the aims is to send signals to investors of Scotland’s long-term energy priorities. The new Energy Strategy will reaffirm the Government’s overarching commitment to reducing energy demand and supplying clean energy, driving a host of economic, social and environmental improvements and promoting sustainable, inclusive growth. There is a continuing commitment to the target for the equivalent of 100% of electricity demand to be supplied by renewables by 2020.

The new Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP) will commence in 2018 following new powers for the Scottish Parliament over the regulated energy suppliers. SEEP will be a coordinated programme to improve the energy efficiency of homes and buildings in the commercial, public and industrial sectors. £9.5 million of funding will be provided to 11 local authorities to carry out SEEP pilots in 2016-17 with further funding being made available next year.

There will also be a consultation on the regulation of private rented sector housing to increase efficiency standards and heat regulations. They will also consult on phased regulation of existing buildings to bring them up to higher energy efficiency standards as well as look at financial incentives.

£10 million of funding will be made available for community energy through the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) and they will also consult during 2017 on plans to deliver a Scottish Green Energy Bond and a possible government-owned energy company, as part of new models of support for the growth of local, community-led energy.

The government recognises the impact of legal challenges to offshore wind development, while arguing that it continues to be an essential part of Scotland’s future energy requirements. They reference the £2.6 billion Beatrice offshore wind farm and the new European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre in Aberdeen bay.

Scotland will play its part in delivering on the Paris climate change commitment. However, the new Climate Change Bill, including a target of reducing actual Scottish emissions by more than 50% by 2020, isn’t in the legislative programme. There will be a consultation early in 2017. The Climate Challenge Fund will make £10 million available to fund projects which deliver the greatest reduction in carbon emissions and support Scotland’s most deprived communities.

Jeremy Corbyn is also going big on renewable energy with a pledge to create an energy policy “for the 60 million, not the big six”, including the creation of 300,000 jobs in the renewables sector. He will set a target of generating 65% of UK electricity from renewable sources by 2030 in a bid to make the country a world leader in green technology.

The delivery mechanism will be through community energy, democratising the energy system. He will create 1,000 energy co-operatives and 200 local, not for profit, energy companies with the support of a network of regional development banks, and legislate to give them the right to sell energy directly to the communities they serve. He is also promising to ban fracking and meet our climate change obligations.

In summary, no surprises from the Scottish Government and quite a lot of common ground with the Labour leader over renewable energy. The big difference is in delivery. The Scottish Government’s community energy plans are very modest, while Jeremy Corbyn is going for a very radical shift in energy ownership.

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