Autumn Statement: the industry responds

Dan McGrail, chief executive, RenewableUK:
“… permanent full expensing will provide a much-needed degree of long-term certainty for investors in green technologies, helping to make the UK an attractive destination for investment in clean energy projects and manufacturing. This combined with the announcement of £960 million for a Green Industries Growth Accelerator to support clean energy manufacturing in the UK will help us to build up new supply chains in Britain at a time when international competition for investment in clean technology manufacturing has never been more intense.
“The decision to extend tax relief on freeports from five to ten years will help us to revitalise coastal communities by encouraging new investment in offshore wind manufacturing…
“We also welcome the Government’s commitments to reform the planning system by offering local authorities financial incentives to make decisions faster, as well as their ambition to cut grid connection delays ..”.

Celia Greaves, chief executive and founder, Hydrogen Energy Association:
“We welcome the news about tax relief on capital expenditure which should lead to more vital investment in the UK energy sector, as well as the measures to support our most innovative industries – both of which will bring benefits to the hydrogen sector.
“Regarding measures to cut grid access delays, the HEA is pleased to see this announcement as access is clearly important for green hydrogen projects.”

Zoisa North-Bond, chief executive, Octopus Energy Generation:
“We’re over the moon to see the government taking the handbrake off the gridlock, which will help us bring cheaper, cleaner energy to Britain faster. Renewables have the power to reduce bills for all, but decades-long grid connection queues have massively slowed us down.
“We’re also glad that the government is looking to ease heat pump planning rules, showing that they are serious about driving the transition to clean heat and keep UK households warm without emitting further carbon.
“To bring bills down even further, we urgently need to look at the way energy is priced. Locational pricing would mean better use of the existing grid, fewer pylons in our countryside and cheaper bills for every household in Britain – it’s a win-win for all.”

Anthony Legg, energy & utilities expert, PA Consulting:
“A missed opportunity to take decisive measures to aid UK’s international competitiveness in the hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and nuclear industries. We remain at significant – and increasing – risk of falling behind the US and EU in attracting investment into these green growth industries.
…While the Statement hasn’t included much in the way of new policy announcements, a raft of new announcements is expected before the end of the year, including in relation to accelerating hydrogen and carbon capture and storage investments and the ongoing review of electricity market arrangements, so hopefully we can look forward to enjoying the holiday season with a renewed sense that delivery of net zero is on track.”

Mike Clancy, general secretary, Prospect union:
“…No amount of rhetoric will hide the fact the UK is failing to deliver the energy infrastructure and innovation we need to either meet our net zero target obligations or create new well-paid jobs in all parts of the country.
“Growing science, technology, engineering and maths skills in both the public and private sector will also be critical to good work and a growing economy, but there was no action here either.”

Christopher Hammond, chief executive, UK100:
“The Autumn Statement rightly recognises our outdated energy grid has become a major barrier to — rather than catalyst for — Net Zero. We welcome interventions to speed up grid connections, support the rollout of EV infrastructure and remove constraints on heat pumps adoption. But these reforms are ultimately workarounds for a planning system that fails to put local climate action at its heart.
“Local leaders will be pleased that the beauty parade of local government funding is receding with the local funding simplification doctrine coming into force in January 2024…
“We’re pleased to see deeper devolution deals for Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, but more communities across the UK would benefit from this empowering settlement being rolled out. ”

Jess Ralston, Head of Energy, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit:
“On the face of it, announcements on the energy grid will help modernise our current system and are likely to be a boost for industry. …
“Hidden away in the detail, there appears to be a change to the windfall tax on renewable electricity generators, exempting new projects. This will likely be another boost for the industry that has repeatedly called for investment certainty in a market where supply chain inflation, ironically partly caused by the gas crisis, remains stubbornly high. But is it enough?
“There’s a huge gaping hole where an effective energy efficiency policy should be. Cold homes have cost the UK billions during the gas crisis and home insulation could have cut that bill dramatically while permanently reducing our reliance on foreign gas. Will the Government now step up on a solution everyone sees as a common sense?
“Taken as a whole, the Chancellor has now entered the global race for net zero industries, but currently we’re walking while the US and EU are at full sprint.”

Lawrence Slade, chief executive, Energy Networks Association:
“It’s great to see the government acting on the need for planning reform, including the publication of revised energy National Policy Statements. We also welcome the intent to ensure there are direct benefits for the communities hosting critical energy infrastructure and the steps set out in the government’s Connections Action Plan.
“Steps taken by the electricity network operators, Ofgem and ESO (the system operator) have already helped to ensure nearly 50GW of capacity is being made available to customers in 2023. That’s almost the equivalent of the UK’s peak electricity demand. The steps announced today will help increase that even further over the coming months and years.”

John Pettigrew, chief executive, National Grid:
“A spatial energy plan and accelerated planning consent will bring clarity, authority and urgency to what [network] needs to be built and where, while new community benefit proposals will ensure local people remain at the heart of the energy transition. The connections action plan will deliver fundamental reforms needed to enable us to plug clean energy projects in faster, and build on the progress already being made.”

Nick Winser, Electricity Networks Commissioner and chair, Energy Systems Catapult:
“The Chancellor’s decision to accept the recommendations in my report is welcome and a major step towards slashing the time it takes to deliver strategic electricity transmission lines – which is so vital to achieving Net Zero by 2050.
“Delivering 50GW of new wind power and 24GW of new nuclear will be a major step towards decarbonising our economy and providing customers with clean, secure, affordable electricity, but that magnificent achievement is wasted if we cannot get the power to homes and businesses.”

Anthony Ainsworth, chief operating officer, Npower Business Solutions:
“The Chancellor billed this year’s Autumn Statement as ‘backing UK business’, announcing 110 measures to support growth. From these, there were several things to note.
“Firstly, full expensing will be made permanent. Businesses have told us that they need additional support to make the necessary plant and machinery investments for a more sustainable future, so a permanent tax incentive for major projects will be very welcome.
“Similarly, the £960m for a new Green Industries Growth Accelerator to support clean energy manufacturing, as well as the response to the Winser review to cut grid access delays by 90%, are also positive moves to keep the growth of our renewable energy industry on track. In addition, the publication of a consultation into a new six year Climate Change Agreement could be good news for many businesses.
“However, as always, the devil will be in the detail. For example, the Green Industries Growth Accelerator funding won’t come online until 2025 and will be split across offshore wind, nuclear, CCUS, electricity networks and hydrogen. It also appears that there was no mention of further funding or incentives for energy efficiency, following the £6bn announced in the 2022 Autumn Statement.
“This is where real differences could be made for all organisations, regardless of their size. More support for the ‘low hanging fruit’ such as simple energy efficiency measures, to help them reduce their energy demand and become more sustainable would be hugely beneficial and also help spearhead future growth.”

Rachel Solomon Williams, executive director, Aldersgate Group:
“This Autumn Statement takes some positive steps forward, but higher ambition and policy stability are critical if the government is to get the economy back on track in the coming year.
Ultimately, making decisions for the long term demands a commitment to implementation now, supporting the development of low-carbon industries that will drive future growth. Businesses recognise this and are acting accordingly – government must match their ambition by building on today’s announcements and creating a supportive environment.”

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