Utility Week

UTILITY Week 14th July 2017

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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6 | 14TH - 20TH JULY 2017 | UTILITY WEEK People & Opinion It's time to step up emissions reduction efforts Chief executive's view Matthew Bell, Committee on Climate Change U tility companies and regu- lators need to fully incor- porate climate change issues into their investment planning and pricing decisions. That is one of the conclusions of last week's report to parliament from the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The CCC is parliament's offi- cial adviser on climate change issues. It is responsible for assessing whether the UK is on track to meeting its legal targets to reduce greenhouse gas emis- sions and whether it is taking sufficient action to ensure the UK is resilient to climate change risks. The latest report to parlia- ment tackles both of these criti- cal issues. On emissions reduction, the report emphasises that it is not as simple as a "game of two halves". Yes, emissions have fallen 42 per cent since 1990 (as GDP rose by about 65 per cent during the same period), which is about half-way towards the 2050 target to reduce UK emis- sions by at least 80 per cent. But the second half will require new and different actions to maintain emissions reduction while grow- ing GDP. In recent years nearly all of that progress has come from the spectacular fall in emis- sions from electricity generation. However, emissions from trans- port and buildings have started rising in recent years. The primary risks to the UK from climate change include: ris- ing temperatures leading to risks to health and wellbeing; flood- ing from heavy rainfall or rising sea levels causing risks to homes and business; risks of short- ages in the public water supply, and for agriculture, electricity generation and industry; and risks to the natural environment and a wide range of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Each of these risks is also affected by a number of additional factors, including a growing and ageing population. Many utility companies and regulators are central players in whether the UK continues to successfully reduce its emis- sions and improve its resilience. Smarter electricity networks, rapid electric vehicle charging, and making our ports, airports, and energy and telecommunica- tions networks better prepared for storms, all help to increase productivity and ensure we're prepared for climate risks. Mod- ernising our infrastructure is also vital to reducing emissions. Government and parliament have agreed cost-effective reduc- tions in greenhouse gas emis- sions from 2017 until 2032. The most urgent risks facing the UK from climate change have also been agreed. The UK helped to negotiate and has ratified the international Paris Agreement on climate change. That agree- ment implies emissions reduc- tions that are more ambitious than current UK targets. The UK has also reiterated its support for the agreement, alongside China, India and the EU, despite the announcement by the fed- eral government of the US of its intention to withdraw. Faced with broad domestic and inter- national agreement – on emis- sions reduction and on tackling climate risks – strong policies are now urgently required to drive UK climate action forward. Decisions taken by infrastruc- ture providers, utility companies and regulators need to support that action. For example, recent floods have demonstrated that telecommunications, water, power and transport infra- structure remains vulnerable to climate change impacts. An awareness that electric vehicles, intermittent generation and elec- tric heating all contribute to tack- ling greenhouse gas emissions must inform power sector invest- ment decisions and price control reviews; risks of water scarcity should feed into water reviews, and the need to transition away from gas for heating needs con- sideration during gas distribu- tion price control reviews. Through successive parlia- ments, and most recently in the Queen's Speech, we have seen broad cross-party support for climate action. Utilities and their regulators have been a key part of delivering that action to date. The upcoming investment plan- ning and price control reviews will cover much of the 2020s. That is the decade in which the UK needs to take a decisive step to ensure its future prosperity by shiing to a truly low-carbon and climate resilient economy. "The industry is confident that the renewables support auction currently under way, whose outcome is expected in months, should lead to a significant further drop in price" Richard Harrington, energy minister

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