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Yes Minister, but….

ACE’s Director reflects on some of the comments in the Secretary of State’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference.

In her conference speech, the Secretary of State suggested that ‘our energy policy should once again be driven by the people who pay the bills.’  Yes indeed, but let’s not forget that we already have relatively cheap energy and our dissatisfaction with our bills is more effectively tackled by helping us to use this resource more wisely than by focusing obsessively on marginal reductions in the cost of a kilowatt hour. ‘Getting a grip to protect families from endless worry about their energy bills’ should start with ensuring that their homes are energy efficient, not with providing secure supplies.

We too are delighted that the new National Infrastructure Commission will look at energy: but it must recognise that our energy infrastructure does not stop at the meter.  Investment in demand side infrastructure needs to be fully and fairly considered alongside supply-side options.

We agree that the Government will help some people to keep their bills down by delivering its promise to insulate a million more homes over the next five years, and that is a good thing; but what about their heating systems, lighting and appliances? What if they need more than just the cheaper insulation options? And what about the other 25 million homes, give or take, that aren’t yet as energy efficient as they need to be?

The Secretary of State wants to get ‘the balance right between supporting new, low carbon generation and protecting bill-payers’: so she must enable energy efficiency to help her do this.  If we use less, we can afford to pay a little more for each unit if we need to, without being out of pocket.

She wants to ‘celebrate and back the businesses and innovators who will transform our energy system’: quite right, but why no mention of the high specification insulation systems that have been developed in recent years, of triple glazing systems that enable natural light to flood in without heat flooding out, of LEDs, of smart heating controls and ventilation… I could go on…

In closing, Ms Rudd invoked the spirit of Margaret Thatcher, to demand that we tackle climate change whilst being ‘tough on subsidies […] pro-innovation and pro-consumer’.  The energy efficiency sector is ready to do just this; it now needs the Government to notice this, and get on with setting the policy framework that will let this happen.

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