What does Brexit mean for energy? Since the UK already has its own EU-independent energy plans, will Brexit make any difference? Previous UK interactions with EU energy goals may help us anticipate the future…

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Our path to exiting the European Union is set for 2019 following the triggering of Article 50 and increasingly, we are being asked the question: “What does Brexit mean for energy?” There are lots of varying opinions and that’s not to be entirely unexpected given the confusion about our future outside of the EU. What will happen? Will policy change? Or will it stand still as the UK parliament becomes caught up in settling the broader implications of Brexit? Brexit, as I see it, is unlikely to be the driver of any energy policy change, because the UK already has its own EU-independent energy plans; UK energy legislation is certainly influenced, but not determined, by EU directives.

Much of EU energy policy is driven by its own goals, established in October 2014, to be met by 2030:
– 40 % cut in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to 1990
– 27 % of EU energy to come from renewables
– 27 % improvement in energy efficiency.

These goals appear ambitious but the UK has its own targets and is more tightly constrained in energy policy by the Climate Change Act 2008 than it is by EU goals. For example, the fifth carbon budget, to be delivered between 2028 and 2032, targets a 57 % reduction in emissions, which is significantly beyond the 40 % set by the EU. By 2015, the UK had already achieved a 38 % reduction compared to 1990, and the UK (and Germany) are aiming for around a 50 % reduction in GHG emissions within the 2020s. It is difficult to see how much Brexit would change things, as long as the UK continues to feel the international pressure to upholds its commitments.

What does Brexit mean for energy? Probably fairly little in relation to energy efficiency, but our colleagues in the procurement world may have more to say. We still await the government’s Emissions Reduction Plan – long overdue its intended release in 2016 – which we hope will outline the action needed to tackle the significant carbon budget deficit as 2030 approaches. Some change is due, we don’t know when, but it should happen before 2019.

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