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Energy Bill wins Third Reading – minus a 2030 target

Posted on 09 June 2013

The Energy Bill passed its Third Reading yesterday with a majority of
388, but without an amendment setting a decarbonisation target for
2030.

Speaking afterwards, secretary of state, Ed Davey, said: “The
positive vote for the Energy Bill is one of the biggest majorities this
Government has seen. This overwhelming majority is great news as the
Bill now makes its way through the House of Lords.

“A clear message has been sent to investors that we are providing the
security they need to work with us to revolutionise the energy sector
and produce cleaner energy, keep the lights on and people’s bills down.”

The cleantech industry was disappointed at the narrow defeat, by 23
votes, of the amendment that would have set a decarbonisation target for
the power sector for 2030. This would have ensured that almost all
electricity came from carbon-free sources such as nuclear, solar and
wind by that year.

Prior to the vote, the Conservative energy and business minister
Michael Fallon urged MPs not to rely on “blind faith” and vote for
“decarbonisation by dogma or default”.

The Renewable Energy Agency's chief executive, Gaynor Hartnell, said:
“Today’s vote is disappointing. It makes an EU-level renewables target
for 2030 even more important, something the ‘greenest government ever’
is also opposing in Europe.

"Failing to decarbonise our electricity supply industry will have
long term consequences both environmentally and economically. The
Government’s own advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, state that
relying on gas will only save the country money in a scenario of low gas
prices, whereas switching to renewables would save the country £25bn to
£45bn by the 2020s".

Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, echoed this view: “The UK has
missed the opportunity to send a signal across the globe to low carbon
industry that we are open for their business and investment."

Referring to cleantech entrepreneurs who have recently located in the
UK, he added: "The lack of a decarbonisation target means we are a step
closer to losing these talented entrepreneurs, and the socio-economic
benefits they bring, to more supportive nations. We are squandering the
value we have already created and it will lock the UK into a high carbon
pathway which will make it much more expensive for us to meet our
domestic and international climate change obligations.”

Ed Davey, however, who broke with many of his Lib-Dem colleagues in
voting against the amendment, does not see it that way. Having
previously supported the move, he changed his mind in December following
pressure from the chancellor George Osborne.

“There are clearly differing views on setting a 2030 decarbonisation
target for the power sector," Davey said afterwards, adding that he
thought it was better "to set a decarbonisation target range in 2016,
once we’ve decided the level of economy-wide emissions reductions that
will have to be achieved by 2030 under the 5th Carbon Budget.

“This means that a target would not be set in isolation but in the
context of considering the pathway of the whole economy towards our 2050
target, and making sure we do that in a way that minimises costs both
to the economy as a whole and to bill payers.

“Regardless of this, we’re already bound by law to cut emissions
across the whole UK economy by 50% by 2025, and the Energy Bill will
bring about substantial decarbonisation of the power sector as part of
that."

He said that the Energy Bill will see “long term contracts for low
carbon" that "will give renewables, nuclear and CCS the chance to
compete against conventional power stations, and will be backed by a
tripling in support for clean energy technologies by 2020".

Tim Yeo, the Tory chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select
Committee and author of the amendment, described the result of the
decarbonisation vote as a “significant reduction in majority” for the
Government which would encourage the House of Lords to seek to amend the
legislation.

Greenpeace Executive Director John Sauven said: “The size of this
rebellion means energy secretary Ed Davey now has no excuse not to fight
for a stronger Energy Bill. The momentum behind new green jobs
amendments shows this debate will continue in the House of Lords, and
all eyes will now be on Nick Clegg and Ed Davey to up their game in the
weeks ahead.”

Among the Lib-Dems who voted in favour of the 2030 target were former
party leader Charles Kennedy and party president Tim Farron. At least
eight Tory backbenchers including Zac Goldsmith, Sir Peter Bottomley and
David Amess also voted against their party leadership.