Does The Queen’s Speech cut it for energy and environment?

The Queen’s Speech has taken place; now’s the ideal time to review the energy and low carbon agenda within.

The UK is caught up in a global energy crisis, and amid massively rising electricity costs net zero is ever more urgent. The country also desperately needs the economic potential that a low carbon and energy overhaul might bring, so the Speech is key.

Can it align disparate and seemingly contradictory elements within government policy for a greener future?

The key takeaways

The new Energy Bill makes it into the Speech, and therefore hits the coming legislative agenda. Energy Live News comments that the pursuit of cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy has thus been put at the heart of the government’s plans.

At the same time, the government is allowing new permitting on North Sea fossil resources, and BP looks set to expand a major Shetland oil field. It’s unclear how this sits alongside the promises on greener, more sustainable power.

edie writes that the Bill will be the first of its kind in more than a decade and will outline how, precisely, the UK plans to end unabated fossil-fuelled energy generation by 2035. The commitment was first announced in October 2021. Time will tell on the detail.

Wider reaction

Commenting on the confirmation that the Energy Bill will be set out this Parliamentary session, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Environment Chris Skidmore MP said:  “An ambitious Energy Bill is desperately needed to help decarbonise our electricity grid, get off volatile gas, and prepare the economy for Net Zero.

“The next year is going to be crucial for environmental progress, whether it’s COP15 in China on biodiversity, COP27 in Egypt, or back home – dealing with the cost of living by insulating homes and building out renewables.

“As Chair of the Environment APPG, I look forward to working constructively with ministers to ensure our policies are fit for purpose.”

“With the Energy Security Strategy focussing on technologies like nuclear that might play a role but not for years to come, there’s a risk that the government is distracted trying to pass new legislation to fund those costly options, when it could instead be focussing on steps that will give more immediate help to hard-pressed households struggling with rising energy bills.”

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) head of analysis Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin

National Infrastructure Bank

Also mentioned in the Speech was the National Infrastructure Bank (NIF), with the Prince stating its priorities remain the promotion of economic growth and the delivery of Net Zero.

There were a total of 38 new laws in the Speech. But of these, only two, the Energy and NIF announcements have any clear impacts on low carbon.

You could argue that low carbon will also be impacted through the Transport Bill, which will enable the installation of electric vehicle charging points. Perhaps the Procurement Bill might also help a low carbon economy, by allowing central and local government bodies to prioritise smaller and UK-based companies for public contracts, ideally those firms that work in low carbon tech.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill should in theory touch on low carbon too, but the government’s concrete policy on what levelling up means is lacking.

It’s even possible that the Financial Services and Markets Bill might encourage the use of environmental and social governance (ESG) or corporate social responsibility (CSR) and transparent disclosure and reporting to drive more green money into UK markets. Again, detail is lacking right now on where this might go.

In conclusion

It’s positive the Bills on Energy and NIF are going through. But they require clear alignment to actually do real good.