Supported by: BP
Energy companies are now key players when it comes to the UK reaching its stated target of net-zero emissions by 2050. How should policymakers work with – and hold to account – energy companies as they attempt to drive decarbonisation? Our panel gave their thoughts to a packed room at Liberal Democrat Party Conference.
Dr Marie Claire Brisbois, Co-Director, Sussex Energy Research Groump, The University of Sussex
Sir Ed Davey MP, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, MP for Kingston and Surbiton
Jane Dodds MP, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire
Andrew Mennear, Director of UK Government Affairs, BP
Chair: James Kirkup, Director, SMF
Jane Dodds kicked off the discussion by outlining the need for a clear plan with a short timescale to shift energy generation away from fossil fuels. Engaging with energy companies is part and parcel of that process. She argued that energy companies have a responsibility to energise people on the local level and put funding into community energy projects like those pioneered by The Green Valleys in her Brecon and Radnorshire constituency.
Dr Marie Claire Brisbois agreed with Dodds on the suggestion that decentralisation would empower citizens and consumers to take action to achieve net-zero. In short, there is something there for consumers to buy into which helps them make a perceivable difference in the fight against climate change. Large energy companies could choose to free up funding for this type of system or they could choose to centralise the shift to renewable energy. And policymakers would have to make the call on when to intervene in this process.
Sir Ed Davey outlined two key political priorities. 1) Put more pressure on energy companies to ensure that carbon capture and storage technology is on track. 2) Change regulations to create transparency on fossil fuel investments and ensure accurate estimates of their future value. Inducing these changes has to happen extremely quickly, but could have the effect of shifting investment away from fossil fuels and towards green energy. It would also encourage public engagement.
‘We know more is needed’, Andrew Mennear noted, adding that BP accepts there is an urgent need to act. BP’s strategy is rapidly shifting to low carbon ventures, reducing emissions and improving existing products, guided by the belief that we need a global price on carbon. This may be a complex policy to introduce, but carbon pricing carves out a world in which consumers, energy companies, investors and governments on a local and national level can work together.