Latest Carbon & energy efficiency posts

Reading the runes of the CRC review

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The government’s plan to simplify the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme is starting to take shape. In January, the energy and climate department (DECC) published a series of discussion papers.

However, these still allow for a wide range of outcomes, many of which involve huge levels of complexity. On the surface then, there is still not much clarity on offer.

Making a heroic attempt to cut through the complexity, the Sunday Telegraph recently headlined an article: CRC “may be scrapped”. The piece was widely copied on the web. (more…)

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Climate change agreements revisited

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Latest thinking by the energy and climate department (DECC) over climate change agreements (CCAs) smacks of blue-sky thinking. It has floated ideas not only to reform but even potentially to scrap the instruments. The government should be careful before reinventing this particular wheel.

Last December, DECC organised a closed workshop including representatives of sectors covered by CCAs to discuss their future. It released a report on the meeting last week.

There is general consensus that CCAs need reform. The voluntary agreements to cut emissions now signed with 52 industry sectors have various shortcomings. These include difficulties with monitoring and benchmarking of progress and an uneasy mixture of absolute and relative targets in different agreements. (more…)

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Secret policemen can’t protect big carbon

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In the Easter of 2009, the state appeared to have landed a crushing blow on Britain’s motley crew of direct action climate campaigners. A late night police raid rounded up more than 100 of them, allegedly preventing them shutting down one of the country’s largest coal-fired power stations, Eon’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar.

But today, after one court case with very lenient sentences (and the judge lionising the campaigners), another case abandoned by the prosecution, and the unmasking of undercover police officer Mark Kennedy, it is looking more like a devastating own goal.

Much of the media commentary on Mr Kennedy, who spent seven years pretending to be a direct action campaigner, has tut-tutted about police over-reaction. Millions of taxpayers’ pounds have been wasted by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, penetrating (even in the physical sense, apparently) a bunch of tree huggers, treating them as if they were dangerous terrorists.

There are several aspects of this police operation which are questionable, not least the line between effective intelligence gathering and becoming an agent provocateur. But surely the state does have a duty to try to prevent the invasion and closure of huge power stations or the runways of major airports. (more…)

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DECC the halls

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December was a month of extraordinarily bitter cold. A snowbound Britain found it hard to get excited about Cancún’s fitful progress towards an international agreement to tackle global warming.

But it was a very big month for Chris Huhne, secretary of state for energy and climate change.

His first big climate summit. Publication of an Energy Bill, introducing an ambitious scheme to shift billions of pounds of private sector capital into making Britain’s heat-leaky homes much more energy efficient.

And then, just before the Christmas holidays, the unveiling of still more ambitious and highly complex proposals for reforming Britain’s power generation system.

The last thing you could accuse the coalition of is being a one-club player. Instead, it is reaching for a bewildering variety of instruments to persuade investors to spend billions a year on a variety of low-carbon generating plant. (more…)

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DECC is chasing its own tail on CRC simplification

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I think the energy and climate department (DECC) is wasting its time trying to simplify the CRC. There’s no doubt the scheme is extremely complicated, and I’ve every sympathy with energy managers who’ve had to get to grips with it.

But surely its complexity is an inevitable result of trying to create a sophisticated mechanism to encourage energy efficiency among a variety of organisations without putting an undue cost burden on them. At least, that was the idea until last month’s spending review when the Treasury ripped the guts out of it by turning it into a carbon tax. (more…)

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Talk is cheap – but so is energy efficiency

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The last time energy efficiency was a high profile issue was during the notorious oil shocks of the 1970s and the three-day week. But here we are again.

This time round, the ‘trinity’ of rising energy costs, supply concerns and climate change policies is providing a new imperative that will be harder to ignore or forget.

The new ENDS special report on energy efficiency shows how far a wide range of both large and medium sized companies have gone on their energy efficiency journey – and how they are reaping rewards in lower energy bills and greater competitiveness.

As the report explains, there is still a huge amount to be done. (more…)

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10:10 campaign needs a firmer grasp on carbon numbers

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As 2010 nears its end, the 10:10 campaign has very little idea of how well it is succeeding in its goal of getting organisations and individuals to cut their carbon emissions by 10% in a year.

The best guess is that it will have reduced all UK emissions by much less than 1% during 2010.

The campaign, launched last September, has no systems in place to gather useful, credible data on what its signatories are collectively achieving. It prefers to emphasise its success in raising awareness about reducing CO2.

Strategy director Duncan Clark says 10:10 has made “carbon cutting cool and inclusive for the first time”.

He says it is unfair to judge 10:10’s success by how much it reduces UK emissions, or to expect the campaign to audit its pledgers’ CO2 cuts.

“It’s about establishing a coalition big enough to redefine the narrative and create political space for serious change.” (more…)

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CRC bombshell: bad government, good for the environment

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Before the election, the then shadow chancellor George Osborne used to give speeches about how Labour had given green taxes – fundamentally a good thing – a bad name.

Now, in the heat and rush of the comprehensive spending review, that is exactly what he has done with his last-minute raid on the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (see our coverage).

This was by far the most striking and concrete environment/carbon element of last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review, which left low carbon business largely in the dark. The green investment bank, the renewable heat incentive, investment in carbon capture and storage are all still to play for. (more…)

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Good intentions, wrong kind of cuts

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The phrase ‘greenest government ever’ has become a mantra for the Coalition, not least for David Cameron and energy and climate secretary Chris Huhne. And we are assured that at the heart of the vision is Britain’s commitment to a low carbon future.

Emissions should be cut by at least 34% by 2020 relative to 1990. Low-carbon businesses and technologies should help drive the UK out of recession and towards green growth.

We will see whether these ambitions translate into reality or get lost in a fog of fiscal expediency when the government publishes its spending review in less than a week’s time. (more…)

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Trading away the future

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2010 has been a bad year for the climate.

Not just for climate treaty negotiations – few expect a deal in Cancún in Mexico this December after the failure in Copenhagen last December. But also for the carbon markets that ultimately depend on strong policies.

Huge interests are at stake. Pioneering investors feel let down and are warning they could go to the wall. The uncertainty could go on until Cancún, or even longer.

This is on top of uncertainty over the post-2012 status of the UN clean development mechanism. The CDM’s future is further clouded by European Union proposals to stop many types of UN offsets from entering the EU Emissions Trading Scheme after 2012.

Why should we worry? There are several reasons. (more…)

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The ENDS Carbon & Energy Efficiency blog provides news and comment for carbon and energy management professionals in business and the public sector, covering the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme and other carbon and energy management and regulation issues. The blog is part of the ENDS Report Carbon & Energy Efficiency channel.

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