Energy sector urges government to be more ambitious with its clean growth strategy

A new survey has found that more than half of respondents in the energy sector believe the government could go further in its attempts to improve and enforce energy efficiency within commercial buildings. 

The latest Energy Efficiency Trends report, published by EEVS Insight and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which surveyed 90 UK-based energy efficiency professionals, reveals that 59% of respondents felt the government’s target to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings could be more ambitious. Survey respondents were asked for their opinions specifically on the target to improve energy efficiency by at least 20% by 2030. Predictably, 68% of suppliers expressed that the targets should go further, versus 49% of consumers, but overall only 38% of respondents felt the targets were ambitious enough.

The research was produced in partnership with the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), the environmental trade body.  Executive director Matthew Farrow believes the feedback is clear and polices should be “tightened”. 

Farrow added: “My sense is that although ministers do genuinely understand that making more efficient use of energy is important in both the competitiveness and climate change agenda, they are struggling for ideas for how to overcome the perennial challenges of energy efficiency policy. The industry feedback gives a clear message - the Clean Growth Strategy target for energy efficiency lacks ambition, existing policies should be toughened up and tax incentives, EPC (Energy Performance Certificates) and ESOS (Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme) reform should be considered. Plenty for the EIC to be talking to the government about in 2018”.

The report has also highlighted how Brexit uncertainty continues to prevail, with energy efficiency suppliers reporting a second successive quarter drop in industry confidence during Q3 of 2017. This is likely to have been driven by the drop-off in consumers reporting that they have commissioned projects over the last three quarters, down 12% compared to the first three quarters of 2016.

Ian Jeffries, director of advisory services at EEVS, said: “It won’t come as a major surprise that Brexit uncertainty can be widely felt across this quarters’ results. The main impact seems to be a fragile, waning sense of confidence – and a further sense that things could go either way in the coming months.”

The survey continued to probe by asking energy professionals on what government policies they best believed would deliver targets. Of the four options included, "tax incentives to drive energy efficiency uptake" was the most popular with 93% agreeing or strongly agreeing this should be a priority. Making EPCs reflect real world performance was seen as similarly important, and reform of the ESOS attracted 65% support. However, bringing back public funding for the Green Deal received a more mixed reaction.

The Clean Growth strategy is the government’s attempt to show how the UK will cut carbon emissions to combat climate change while ensuring economic growth is not stunted. The strategy, which was released in October 2017, sets out how the country can benefit from low carbon economic opportunities through the creation of new technologies and new businesses.

Commenting on the results, Levent Gurdenli, senior associate at international law firm Bird & Bird, said: "The Clean Growth Strategy has put energy efficiency firmly at the centre of the government's attention for tackling climate change and delivering economic growth. The focus on energy efficiency in the Clean Growth Strategy is very positive but it is clear from industry feedback that some of the targets could be more ambitious and that we are still lacking a lot of the detail around how to actually achieve these ambitions. We need to build on the momentum generated by the Clean Growth Strategy to ensure the Government considers the full range of measures needed to implement a coherent energy efficiency policy that delivers results, whether that be through tax incentives, reforming ESOS, the standardisation of energy efficiency or otherwise.”

Click here to view the Energy Efficiency Trends report.

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