Last week (26 Oct) saw the Energy Act 2023 become law after a very long passage of the Energy Bill through parliament. Broadly welcomed by the energy industry, the Act contains many elements that help advance the energy transition, some of which are more controversial than others.
Significant changes were announced to the energy regulator Ofgem:
- It has been appointed as the new regulator for UK heat networks.
- It will establish a Future System Operator function for the UK energy network.
- It has been given a net-zero duty. This is well overdue, as until now it has had to give fossil fuel projects as much weight as renewables projects.
Other measures in the Act will help accelerate the sectors of:
– Heat pumps
– Hydrogen transport and storage
– Transport and storage of captured CO2.
– Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage
– Sustainable Aviation Fuels
– Nuclear projects
But there were some notable omissions too. There was no ban on new coal mines, and nothing on mandating the oil and gas sector to reduce gas flaring more rapidly.
The Act also contains no new measures to accelerate the development of community energy. Despite significant cross-party support for establishing a guaranteed income scheme for small electricity generators and enabling them to sell the electricity locally more easily, the government chose to leave these measures out of the Act.
We are already experiencing record hot temperatures, and entering what scientists are calling “uncharted climate territory”. Community energy is a trusted, cost-effective way of not only providing cheaper and reliable renewable energy to local people, but also of bringing communities together. In supporting the growth of community-owned energy the government would be helping people reduce their energy bills, improve energy security in the UK, and reach our climate goals. By leaving community energy out of the Act, the government is missing an incredible opportunity to empower people on the road to net zero.