Today’s Financial Times reports on the developing conflict between UK electric vehicle charging market leader Ecotricity and its competitors. This points to a significant challenge for the Government’s efforts to establish a reliable national network of charging points that can underpin consumer confidence to switch away from petrol and diesel.
Over the past six months, brightly coloured bikes have appeared across European cities as bike-sharing, and in particular dockless bike-sharing, has featured with ever growing prominence in public debates. sharing.
This summer, Londoners will have noticed the addition of new bicycles parked in various locations across Britain’s capital. Closer inspection of these bikes reveals that they are ‘oBikes’ - a bicycle which you can unlock with an app on your phone and use at very little cost, without the need to park at docking stations.
To a rather muted fanfare, the British Government published its industrial strategy green paper last month. As far as the energy and climate change audience were concerned, in the run-up to the publication of the strategy, the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Department (BEIS) – a department still in its infancy - was essentially facing two challenges:
The energy sector – driven by climate policies and regulation and the technology revolution – is undergoing a transformation. As Fatih Birol, the IEA's Executive Director, said in introducing the IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook in November 2017: “…there is no single story about the future of global energy…”
2016 has built on the momentum of the Paris Agreement. But the election of Donald Trump in the US has placed question-marks over whether this momentum can be maintained, or if recent progress will be derailed. At the conclusion of COP 22 in Marrakesh, this analysis piece considers the state-of-play and the prospects for 2017.
On 6 October, a new acronym was introduced to the world of aviation and climate change. CORSIA – the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation – is the outcome of what many in the aviation industry have described as an “historic agreement” to tackle the burgeoning problem of aviation emissions.
The concept of energy storage is not new. However, technology advancements and the increased sense of urgency in relation to decarbonisation have gradually drawn attention to the possibilities of storage.
Natural capital — a term for the earth’s natural resources and support systems that benefit human society — is the underlying focus of our environmental laws and policies. The Clean Air and (Clean) Water Acts of the US and UK are two aptly-named examples of previous policies designed to protect natural resources.
In the run-up to last Thursday’s EU referendum, policy direction, announcements and news flow dried up as the politicians became increasingly consumed with the debate. Following the tumultuous decision taken by the British people, this piece considers the in-tray that the Government - above all, DECC, but in addition other parts of Whitehall - needs to return to on energy and climate matters.
Last week’s gloomy Global Economic Outlook from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (the OECD) raises further questions on the degree of reliance placed by policymakers on monetary policy as an engine to boost output in a low growth, ultra-low inflation, economic environment. Markit Economics’ recent study of combined PMI indicators for the UK and the Eurozone indicated growth in the second quarter of 2016 of 0.2% and 0.3% in each respective market. The OECD downgraded the forecast for UK GDP growth in 2016 to 1.7%.
One of the key policy responses to the financial crisis which led to the Great Recession was the subsequent action taken by EU Heads of Government through the European Council in June 2009 to strengthen the regulatory system governing all financial services providers within the Single Market area. In establishing a new European Banking Authority (EBA), within a European System of Financial Supervisors, which could take decisions on the basis of majority voting, member states also adopted a trio of regulations applicable throughout the Single Market – known together as the Single Rulebook.
Boom and Bust
The EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) has been up and down a rollercoaster over the last decade. Launched with considerable optimism in 2005 as one of the European Union’s prime policy instruments for tackling climate change by placing a price on greenhouse gas emissions, it has since gone through what can be most appropriately termed a “boom and bust” cycle.
At the end of Phase I in 2007, the price of an EUA effectively hit zero, as there was no provision to carry Phase I EUAs into the second phase.
2015 was a significant year for climate and energy policy and markets: from the momentous Paris agreement to Obama’s continuing push on the Clean Power Plan; from the new British Government’s fresh (and controversial) energy approach to, at last, some stability for the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), which may have real implications for the longer-term.
Politicians have shown they are serious - to achieve a positive outcome, the negotiators need to do the same.
For those not acquainted with the international negotiations on climate change - perhaps even more so for those who have that first-hand experience - they are at best an irritant, at worst a pointless relevance. Since the UNFCCC process began in the early 1990s after the international community agreed that “dangerous” climate change should be addressed, negotiators have gathered year after year in different parts of the world to discuss how the international community can take action to mitigate the climate problem and how the most seriously affected regions (usually in poorer countries) can adapt to the changes brought about by the steady increase in atmospheric and sea temperatures.
The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the EU’s flagship climate policy instrument aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least economic cost and incentivising investment in the low-carbon economy, has been back in the news - for once in a positive sense.
In a speech at the European Parliament plenary debate on Monday 6th July, First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said that the Commission “remains strongly committed” to present a circular economy package towards the end of this year. The reasons are quite simple: Vice-President Katainen, Commissioner Vella, Commissioner Bienkowska, and others, essentially believe that the new circular economy package can bring:
The dominant media narrative on climate and energy policy under the Coalition Government had become something of a cliche. The Liberal Democrats were ‘the green heart’; the Tories were ‘arch-advocates of oil and gas’; the Lib Dems, led by Secretary of State Ed Davey, were the ‘champions of disruptive utilities companies’, taking on the power of the Big 6; and the Tories were ‘in the pockets of the big energy companies.’
Energy and environmental policies have been a regular talking-point during the period in office of this coalition government. Most of the public will have heard of David Cameron’s ambition that his should be the “greenest government ever”, while few speeches from Ed Miliband have grabbed the spotlight in the manner his “price freeze" party conference speech did in September 2013. Subjects which used to live in the world of policy and markets wonks - the link between wholesale and retail prices, the impact of energy efficiency measures, the cost of renewables, Russian gas pipelines, not to mention the controversies generated by fracking - have become almost mainstream topics.
If last autumn was the settling-in period, the New Year is the time for the new European Commission to get moving on its priorities. The European Parliament elected last May has now bedded in, the Committees have established a work programme, and the parliamentarians will be keen to start making an impact on policy-making and regulatory measures. The next few months are therefore likely to see a lot of activity. As energy policy - and its multiple linkages with the wider European economy - has already been highlighted by Juncker and his senior lieutenants as one of the most important issues on the agenda, Commission officials in DG Clima and DG Energy are going to be busy, as will the ENVI (Environment) and ITRE (Industry, Trade and Energy) Committees in the Parliament. This piece analyses the key themes and what may merge in terms of concrete policy or legislative proposals.