The Energy Institute (EI) has published its 2018 Energy Barometer, an annual ‘state of the nation’ survey which this year shows the energy industry’s continued concerns over the impact of Brexit, despite progressions in the sector.
The report features the opinions of six UK ministers and industry leaders working across the country’s energy system, with their comments revealing positivity over advancements in renewable energy being dampened by an intensifying ‘fog of uncertainty’ surrounding Brexit and related policy shortcomings.
EI president Malcolm Brinded said that, due to Brexit, “confidence in meeting the UK’s carbon targets has worsened”. He calls for these doubts to be addressed to ensure the country’s energy sector, being crucial for “economic prosperity and social wellbeing”, is given the greatest chance to succeed.
According to the survey, Brexit has risen from the fifth to the second most pressing concern for UK energy professionals, despite the year of negotiations in Brussels. Specifically, concerns over skilled workforce availability and the future relationship between the UK and the EU single energy market have escalated.
EI council member and the Association for the Conservation of Energy CEO Dr Joanne Wade said the level of such concerns was worrying considering evidence of the energy sector’s successes.
Indeed, the report also showcased clean energy progressions over the past year, with renewables generating 30% of electricity for the first time, and solar and offshore wind prices continuing to drop.
Additionally, the survey found renewables to be perceived as one of the top three areas where policy is having a positive impact, while the investment risk associated with offshore wind and solar is the lowest among forms of energy production.
Nuclear power, tidal power, hydrogen and carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) are seen as the highest investment risk due to policy uncertainty, with CCUS seen as the most precarious. Respondents identified a stable policy framework, funding for demonstration projects and a sufficiently high carbon price as crucial for success in this area.
In addition to their fears, contributors also mentioned the possible positive outcomes of Brexit. These included an ability to negotiate new trade agreements with non-EU countries, flexibility to support new electricity generation capacity, renewable heat and transport, and greater control over UK carbon pricing policy.
Professional services in energy, renewables and smart grid design and management were identified as potential export strengths for the new, ‘global’ Britain.
Alongside the necessity to quell Brexit fears, Wade highlighted the need to make gender diversity a priority in order to strengthen the industry, given evidence showing the latter’s connection to positive financial performance.
One in ten respondents to the Barometer survey said they perceive gender diversity as unimportant to the sector, while 16% said they are ambivalent to the issue. Such a lack of interest is worrying considering the recent statistics published by POWERful Women, showing only 13% of boardroom positions to be occupied by women in the top 80 UK energy companies, with half of these boards having no women at all.
As such, Wade said that energy members should “heed the Barometer’s findings on diversity”.