Today’s Queen’s Speech sets out our early priorities for the new Parliament. DECC’s priorities are clear: keeping the lights on and powering the economy; keeping bills low for families and businesses and getting a climate deal in Paris this year.
The UK is one of the most energy secure countries in the world. The National Grid has the right tools in place to deal with the toughest system conditions - its new services to balance the electricity system meant that we maintained healthy margins throughout last winter. In the medium term we have a Capacity Market to make sure there is enough available to meet future peak electricity demand - last year it produced new investment at good value for money. Longer term we are investing in new energy infrastructure - new nuclear and renewables, as well as exploring for shale gas.
However, even as we cut our carbon emissions over the coming decades we will need oil and gas as part of our energy mix. That includes maximising home grown energy sources rather than relying on imports - and benefitting working people in Britain. The new Energy Bill will boost the UK oil and gas industry by creating an independent regulator for exploration and production from the territorial sea and UK continental shelf. This new approach to industry collaboration (which fully implements last year’s independent Wood Review) will help drive down costs and improve the sector’s efficiency.
As well as helping maintain secure supplies, prolonging the life of this mature oil and gas producing basin will sustain its contribution to our economy bringing revenue to our nation and contributing to growth and employment; the industry in the UK already supports around 375,000 jobs.
The new Bill announced today will also empower local people with a greater say on windfarm applications.
Large scale wind farm applications (those over 50MW) are currently determined by me - the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change - through the planning regime. It’s right that local people should have the power to decide whether they want a wind farm in their area, so we’re devolving powers out of Whitehall. My existing consenting powers in relation to onshore wind will transfer to local planning authorities, making decisions on energy more democratic and giving our communities a direct say on these planning decisions.
Man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats this country and the world faces. The summit in Paris in December is the best opportunity for years to get comprehensive, rules based agreement that keeps the objective of limiting global warming to 2 degrees in reach. The three biggest carbon emitters, the EU, US and China are all determined to get a deal done.
A global deal is the only way we can deliver the scale of action required – and it is strongly in the UK’s interest. A global deal provides the only credible means to leverage more from others and would further drive down the costs of climate action.
So agreeing a global deal is a massive opportunity for us to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change and also to open up new opportunities for our low carbon industries. It’s not just governments who want this deal, its businesses, NGOs and campaign groups both in the UK and internationally.
The UK is already playing its part. Our own emissions are down 30% on 1990 levels, and our carbon budgets keep us on track to deliver our ambitious 2050 targets. We are leading the way in clean technology and innovation, creating new jobs and helping to power our economic recovery.