Precise takes a look at the latest Queen's speech which details plans to maximize domestic oil and gas production and apply the brakes to the growth of onshore wind farms.
At a time of global uncertainty, there was perhaps only one logical move for the Conservative government to make in the Queen’s Speech regarding the UK’s energy future – and that is to secure it.
Speaking at the state opening of Parliament, the Queen revealed that a new Energy Bill was to be introduced that would maximize domestic oil and gas production and apply the brakes to the growth of onshore wind farms.
It was a clear signal that defending the nation’s energy future is more important to this government than cutting carbon emissions.
In a statement it said, “Given the right business conditions which promote investment, the UK’s oil and gas industry can continue to supply a significant proportion of our needs to 2020 and beyond.” To achieve this the Oil and Gas Authority will be given the power it needs to become a “robust, independent and effective regulator”.
The production from UK fields accounted for just over half of domestic consumption last year and was mirrored by gas, according to the government. However there was widespread uncertainty following the astonishing 40% collapse of global oil prices last year. With prices that low production became increasingly unprofitable. As a reaction to this combined with job cuts and the threat of more, the government moved to ease taxation in order to prop the industry up.
It is hoped that this move will “maximize the economic recovery of offshore oil and gas reserves, prolonging the life of the basin and help to ensure our energy security.”
The Queen’s Speech also revealed that the law will be changed so that local communities get the final say on wind farm applications, moving the decision making process from national to local planning authorities. The only thorn in the side of this proposal is that if a local community rejects a development, it can still be appealed to national planning inspectors or the secretary of state.
Continuing with his assault on the wind farm industry, David Cameron said, “Enough is enough” and pledged to end “any new public subsidy” for onshore wind farms. The government is due to announce those measures soon and also intends on proposing changes to the subsidies received by devolved administrations. The subsidies are shared between all homes in the UK through levies on their energy bills.
The Energy Bill is a clear signal from Cameron that he is committed to growing business and supporting investment – just apparently not those of the green persuasion. He is soon to take a leading role in the climate change talks in Paris later this year and renewable energy campaigners say for this to be remotely credible there is work to be done. Caroline Lucas the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion said it “must shelve plans for fracking and take action to invest in a renewable energy system fit for the 21st century.”
But this majority Conservative government is enjoying the headiness of a one party power and has been emboldened by figures showing Britain’s industrial sector returned to health in March, aided in no small part by the recovery of the oil and gas industry. The rise in oil production was the largest in almost a year and it’s hoped this signals an end to pain for the industry. On the face of this it is unlikely Cameron will pay much heed to calls for change.