Utility Week

UTILITY Week 26th February 2016

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utILIty WeeK | 26th February - 3rd march 2016 | 9 Interview I n November 2014, most utility sector companies were concerned about the looming general election, and preparing themselves for the forthcoming winter – especially aer the exceptionally stormy weather of the previous year. You'd be hard pressed to find many people who would say it was a good time. But that is what the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) chief executive Matthew Bell tells Utility Week – because that is when he took up his role. "There's no question I feel I joined at a really good time," he says. Since then, he has had to deal with the subsidy slash- ing and policy-silent actions of the new government, keep the UK on track towards its 2030 carbon reduc- tion targets, raise concerns about yet another collapse of support for carbon capture and storage (CCS), and marvel at the global ambition finally shown to deal with climate change. That's quite a lot crammed into his first 15 months and, as Bell reminisces with a smile, it is obviously an introduction he has relished. But it's not all been smooth, smile-inducing serenity. Within weeks of the Conservative majority govern- ment coming into power in May, the newly instated energy secretary Amber Rudd got straight down to work implementing the party's manifesto and announced that subsidies for onshore wind were to end, and support for solar and biomass was to be slashed. Details of the transition to the low-carbon economy – set out in the legally binding Climate Change Act of 2008 – have been less forthcoming, although Bell says a plan is set to be presented to the committee by the end of the year. Is he frustrated by the length of time the govern- ment is taking to publish its plan, especially with inves- tor confidence dwindling? No, not yet. "I think it's quite reasonable for the government to say this is a big and important area and there are a lot issues it has to satisfy itself about – emissions reduction, affordability and security of supply. "I can completely understand why industry and investors think that's a long period of time and would rather have a decision sooner rather than later, but basi- cally a year for a government to come up with a plan for a sector as important as the power sector doesn't seem out of order to me." However, the mild-mannered Canadian does express some irritation about the way the government has con- ducted its energy policy reset: "The slightly unfortunate thing is that they have been clear about what they're not going to do and less clear about what they will do."

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