Brexit: Energy Security (European Union Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:17 pm on 6th June 2018.

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Photo of Lord Krebs Lord Krebs Crossbench 8:17 pm, 6th June 2018

My Lords, I start by declaring my interest as recorded at the back of the report: I am a former member of the Climate Change Committee and chair of its adaptation sub-committee, and a current member of the advisory board of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. I also join other noble Lords who are members of the sub-committee in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his outstanding chairmanship of this report—and indeed the other reports we have produced—and thanking the committee clerk and policy analyst.

Before we started on this inquiry I had read a report from Chatham House, published in 2016, before the referendum. It said:

“In the field of energy and climate policy, remaining in the European Union offers the best balance of policy options for Britain’s national interests”.

I had expected—perhaps even hoped—that in the many hundreds of pages of written evidence and many hours of oral evidence, including the evidence from the Minister that has been referred to, we would find out why Chatham House was wrong. Unfortunately, we did not find out why it was wrong, so I want the Minister to explain at the start exactly why leaving the European Union will be better for the national interests of Great Britain in terms of energy and climate policy.

As we know, and as the Government state in their response, the challenge for energy policy is to reconcile three imperatives that are essential for the future: security of our energy supply, affordability of our energy supply, and decarbonisation of our energy supply. As things stand, and as we have already heard from other noble Lords, the Government’s delivery of these objectives is supported not only by national legislation but by our membership of the European Union and its various component parts that deal with energy.

I will be brief, bearing in mind the late hour, but I want to spend a few minutes talking about the third leg of energy policy: decarbonisation. The Government’s response to our report makes several references to our legally binding national decarbonisation targets, the Paris Agreement and the Clean Growth Strategy. Commenting on the last of these, the government response states:

“The Clean Growth Strategy sets out how the country can benefit from the creation of new technologies and new businesses, while meeting our climate change targets”.

This may well be true but what the government response does not say is that the Committee on Climate Change has pointed out that the measures set out in the Clean Growth Strategy do not take the Government anywhere near meeting their own legally binding commitments. The committee has said:

“Although ambitious, the Strategy does not go far enough. Urgent action is needed to flesh out current plans and proposals, and supplement them with additional measures, to meet the UK’s legally-binding carbon targets in the 2020s and 2030s … Even if delivered in full, existing and new policies, including those set out in the Clean Growth Strategy, miss the fourth and fifth carbon budgets by around 10-65 MtCO2e—a significant margin”.

Without going into detail, the CCC also points to areas in which more action is needed, including transport, domestic buildings, low-carbon electricity, energy efficiency, landfill and agriculture.

The Committee on Climate Change has also pointed out that by the 2020s, about half of the required emissions reductions will be dependent on policies that come from the European Union. I ask the Minister to explain to us how, post Brexit, the Government intend to combine the objectives of maintaining a secure and affordable energy supply while meeting their legally binding commitments on decarbonisation.

Finally, I want to say just a few words about the internal energy market, although much has been said already and I do not want to repeat it. As we have already heard, the Minister, Richard Harrington, told us that the Government’s,

“top priority is to be as near as possible to the current arrangements”,

but he did not explain, given that, why he thought it was such a good idea to leave the current arrangements. If you want them to remain, why not just stay with them? More recently, on 27 April, the European Commission published its Notice to Stakeholders on Brexit and the internal energy market, which contains some stark messages for this country. For instance, as a third country, the UK will have to pay for transmission costs inside the internal energy market, which could seriously alter the economics of interconnection. What is the Government’s assessment of the Commission’s Notice to Stakeholders, particularly in the context that, as we have heard from other noble Lords, virtually all projections of UK power supply indicate that we will have to import more, rather than less, over the next decade or longer?