One of many sage and insightful expert comment and analysis which has arisen from Renewables After Brexit – the keynote conference held by the Centre for Energy, Petroleum & Mineral Law And Policy at Dundee University recently – is this:
“Brexit is like trying to arrange a divorce while at the same time, going to marriage guidance couple counselling.”
After ‘Brexit is Brexit’ and ‘Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ this has got to be one of the best maxims to come from Britain’s Independence from the EU-bloc.
Meanwhile, one the one hand, there was the ‘steady as we go’ view of little or no change from Brexit from Lawrence Slade, who is – in one of his many-hatted jobs – Chief Executive of Energy UK.
On the other hand, there was the ‘more domestic action is needed now’ to boost Scotland’s renewable energy sector, put forward by the chief executives of Star Renewable Energy and Absolute Solar and Wind Power.
Energy UK has already announced that its members – who provide retail gas and energy supplies – wants to remain in the EU’s Emissions Trading system.
And Lawrence Slade, its chief executive, said: “The energy world in Britain won’t change on day one of Brexit.
“The UK will still be very closely connected – literally and figuratively – to the EU energy trading system both from common interest, close financial and policy ties and also from the EU-UK energy interconnectors, through which power will continue to flow.
“The real – and ongoing – debate is ‘How to get the <consumer> bills down irrespective of Brexit.
“The key is how we manage the next period <of pre-Brexit Independence transition> – but this policy itself should not change. The status quo is the ‘simple’ answer – because it works.”
In a remarkably prescient and in-sightful comment ahead of the ‘regulatory alignment’ compromise over the Irish land border between the Republic and Northern Ireland which emerged in London and Brussels after the Renewables After Brexit conference in Dundee, Slade added:
“We’re not taking Brexit lightly – it will have impacts and consequences, which will be greater the more regulatory divergence there is.
“In order to reach for the de-carbon ‘stars’ we must continue to align as much as possible with Brussels and EU nations – not just the EU Commission – as well as in the EU-wide international gas and electricity trade associations of energy providers.”
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Slade’s own position (and one of his many occupational ‘hats’) on the Eurogas and Eurelectric EU-trade bodies is at risk as a result of Brexit, and SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies also faces being barred from his role as deputy-chairman of Eurelectric.
Slade added: “Divergence is the risk of Brexit to renewables – of different targets, different models, and different costs to consumers. This is a risk – but there’s also a discussion to be had < between energy industries in UK and EU>
“Brexit is a real issue; it’s already damaged investor confidence in renewables in Britain – apart from the impact of higher costs from the Brexit-triggered de-valuation of the £ against the Euro – while policy uncertainty is also impacting negatively on market sentiment.
“Added to the very real difficulties in in accessing free labour markets for skilled renewables workers, this all creates a pipeline of worries for investors.”
But there are also some Brexit-positives, said Sommerfeld. “For instance, it may free us from EU minimum import pricing rules, from limits on state-aid to domestic industries and from regulations on imports of bio-mass feedstock supplies.”
For the Renewable Energy Association, Sommerfeld agreed with Slade from Energy UK about the greater risks from greater divergence from EU targets – irrespective of Brexit.
He said: “On the one hand, Brexit may result in greater UK sovereignty – and more control of domestic energy markets, but on the other hand, this could harm affordability and security of supply.
“But remaining a member of the EU energy market means the UK accepting EU standards, network codes and – <equally presciently> the European Court of Justice.
“For example, legal clarity is certainly needed on the UK’s role in, or out of, the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS); Why re-invent this wheel within a UK-only market?
13 Dec 2017