‘Fog of Brexit uncertainty’ obscures prospects for UK energy industries

The annual ‘state of the nation’ survey, representative of professionals working across the entire UK energy system, paints a picture of progress in clean power and transport obscured by a thickening “fog of uncertainty” surrounding Brexit and policy shortcomings.

The headline messages from the 2018 Energy Institute survey are:

The “fog of uncertainty” around Brexit has intensified, despite a further year of negotiations, but possibilities for global Britain are seen on the horizon.

The most notable development identified in the Energy Barometer 2018 is the rise of Brexit from fifth to second most pressing challenge facing energy professionals in the UK, despite a further year of negotiations with Brussels.

Last year’s acute concerns around skilled workforce availability and the future relationship between the UK and the EU single energy market have intensified.

Aside from this serious overarching concern, when asked about possible opportunities for the UK post-Brexit, professionals point to the ability to negotiate new trade agreements with non-EU countries, the flexibility to support new electricity generation capacity, renewable heat and transport, and greater control over UK carbon pricing policy.

  • Professional services in energy, smart grid design and management, and renewables are singled out as potential export strengths for ‘global Britain’.
  • Energy efficiency is seen across the board as the key to a productive economy and to cutting carbon without unnecessary cost.
  • There are mixed fortunes for clean energy – renewables are surging, while key high capital projects are seen as risky business.
  • Scepticism of meeting the fifth carbon budget has grown – more than 80% expect the UK to fall short, despite publication of the Clean Growth Strategy.
  • Gear change on Britain’s roads – half of vehicles are expected to be low carbon and/or battery-powered vehicles (BPVs) even before the ban on new petrol & diesel cars in 2040.

Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng FEI, President of the EI, commented: “The Energy Barometer 2018 reflects the rapid pace of change in the UK energy system over the past year.

“With unprecedented penetration of renewable power pushing the contribution of low carbon on the grid beyond fifty percent, energy professionals rank offshore wind and solar as the least risky investments of all forms of energy production.

“But this year’s survey doesn’t allow us to say we have shaken off past uncertainties.

“The fog surrounding Brexit has thickened despite negotiations being a year further on. And confidence in meeting the UK’s carbon targets has worsened, despite publication by ministers of the Clean Growth Strategy. Past policy switches have created caution in many future investments.

“Answers to key questions are needed. Energy is critical to the UK’s economic prosperity and social wellbeing and must not be left to chance.”

Dr Joanne Wade OBE FEI, EI Council Member and CEO of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, added:

“The EI barometer yet again ranks energy efficiency as the low risk, high return priority for building a more productive economy and cutting carbon without unnecessary cost to the consumer.

“Energy professionals anticipate a fundamental gear change on Britain’s roads, with half of vehicles expected to be low carbon before the 2040 ban on new petrol and diesel cars even comes into effect. This outpaces some previous projections and begs the question whether ministers could be more ambitious still.

“Leaders in the energy sector should heed the Barometer’s findings on diversity. Given the growing strength of evidence connecting diversity with financial performance, it is concerning to find a significant minority still ambivalent towards this agenda.”

The Energy Barometer is now in its fourth year. The 2018 survey was conducted in February 2018 among the EI College, a group of UK energy professionals drawn from the EI’s Fellow, Member and Associate Member grades, reflecting diverse sectors, disciplines and seniorities across the energy system.

Full responses were received from 406 respondents, making the findings statistically representative of the EI’s 20,000 members.

The Energy Institute (EI) is the chartered professional membership body bringing global energy expertise together.

Meanwhile, a new Renewables UK members survey shows that an illustrative sample of 43 companies exported goods and services to 44 countries in 2017. 

These companies struck 445 deals to work on 434 wind, wave and tidal energy projects all over the world – throughout the rest of Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and Antarctica.

The contracts were worth up to £7.5 million each, with some companies earning £20 million overall from their wind and marine energy exports last year. 

They range from exporting small onshore wind turbines to providing 80-metre blades and cables for offshore wind farms. 

Top export destinations for these technologies in 2017, were, in order of importance, Germany, USA, France , Denmark, China, the Netherlands, Ireland, Taiwan, Belgium and Japan. Other significant destinations included Australia, Singapore and South Korea.

19 Jun 2018

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