Spring Budget: Energy focus is essential for bills and climate

Ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s delivery of the next UK budget on 15th March, lobbyists are calling for an extensive package to tackle bills and emissions in the long-term.

While it is expected that current support for energy bills will be extended, groups including Friends of the Earth are asking Downing Street to look further into the future in terms of expenditure and investment. 

white wind turbines on green grass field under blue and white cloudy sky during daytime

Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, a major catalyst behind rocketing utility bills for British homes and businesses, millions have been forced into fuel poverty. While markets have calmed, a new extension on the existing energy price cap is due next month, essentially meaning that even with Government support bills for the vast majority are again set to rise. This is despite soaring profits at major fossil fuel companies, including UK-based BP, Shell, and Centrica. 

The result has been a major push for policymakers to take the idea of energy security and independence more seriously. A key part of this is continued growth in the renewable power sector, which is also an essential aspect of net zero ambitions and national climate commitments, both domestic and international. With this in mind, a number of recommendations have been made on what the Spring Budget – revealed next week – should entail. These include: 

*Urgent investment and rollout of street-by-street insulation programmes for homes of those hit hardest by the energy crisis, reducing leakage and consumption, in addition to £5bn per year commitment to ‘future proof’ all homes by 2030

*Stronger and fairer windfall tax on oil and gas companies, including closing loopholes allowing exemptions based on investment in more fossil fuel projects

*Reform of the windfall tax on renewable energy companies in a bid to encourage more green power investment 

*Cheap homegrown on and offshore renewable energy solutions should be backed as a priority, with barriers to land-based windfarms eased 

*Large scale investment in public and active travel infrastructure, including significant improvements to bus services in decline since the pandemic 

“Action that simultaneously tackles the cost of living and climate crises must be at the heart of next week’s budget. An extension of the energy bills support scheme alone is not enough for the millions of people living in poorly insulated homes and struggling with soaring bills,’ said Mike Childs, Head of Policy at Friends of the Earth.

‘With Europe and the US introducing policies to boost green growth, the government must ensure the UK doesn’t lose out on the economic growth and jobs potential that a zero-carbon economy could bring. Backing green energy and energy efficiency is not only good for the climate, but essential to our future prosperity,’ he continued. 

In other recent news, the UK Government has been heavily criticised for its lacklustre attempts to revive onshore wind developments. RenewableUK warned that proposed steps to begin expanding the sector – essentially on hold due to a de-facto ban – would not be enough.

Meanwhile, the future of seven British solar and battery energy sites has been confirmed in a new agreement between leading forces in the green energy sector. Find out the details on the deal, and what it means, here

Image: Waldemar


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