I speculated this month somewhat idly on whether the UK or US energy secretary would be the first to quit his post. Many in the gossipy world of Westminster politics are betting on an imminent departure of Chris Huhne. But after one of the stormiest weekends of his political life, it is difficult to say whether he is now stronger or weaker.
The story that might yet kill Huhne’s political career, at least in the short term, is entirely non energy-related. Police are considering whether to investigate claims that he asked another person to take driving penalty points on his behalf for a speeding offence. He denies any wrongdoing.
A global backlash against nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima crisis would lead to higher prices, less energy security and higher carbon emissions, according to Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency.
Birol was speaking as part of the FT’s weekly energy podcast, and told us that if countries around the world scaled back their nuclear ambitions, it would be highly damaging.
The UK government has a big decision to make next week: whether to endorse the proposals by the Committee on Climate Change to set stringent emissions reductions targets for 2030.
The so-called “fourth carbon budget” (the other three have already been made policy) sets out that the UK should cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent on 1990 levels by 2030.
Chris Huhne (pictured on the left), the energy secretary, is broadly in favour, having put tackling climate change at the heart of his department’s agenda. But he is facing resistance from an unexpected source: his Lib Dem cabinet colleague Vince Cable (on the right).
Many thanks for all your questions for Michael Bromwich, the man in charge of offshore oil permitting in the US. His answers will appear on this site on Friday, April 15th.
Next week, the person in the hotseat will be Steve Cunningham, UK and Ireland chief executive of Landis+Gyr, the world’s biggest maker of smart meters.
This is your chance to ask Steve about anything from how quickly it might be able to install 1m meters for British Gas, to the future of smart meters and grids worldwide, to his company’s plans for a flotation or sale.
Email all your questions to email@example.com by Monday, April 11th.
George Osborne reiterated today the UK government’s “determination to be the greenest government ever”. But given what we already knew, most of the new information contained in Wednesday’s Budget seems to be set against that agenda.
Let’s take the measures one-by-one:
1) CCS support. We already knew that £1bn was pledged for round one. The new information in the Budget is that round two will be funded largely by the carbon floor price.
But as Mr Osborne himself admitted, this won’t be enough (at least at the level it has been set) on its own. Further money will be required from general taxation, which leaves second round CCS projects fighting alongside everything else for a rapidly diminishing pool of government spending.
George Osborne, the UK chancellor, has just announced his tax measures for the next year, and the biggest surprise came with a cut to fuel duty, to be funded by extra charges on North Sea oil producers if the oil price remains over a certain price somewhere around $75 a barrel. The supplementary charge for such companies will now go from 20 per cent to 32 per cent.
So the North Sea’s big oil and gas producers must be suffering, right? Well, no.
For the big companies this means little – the North Sea is a declining asset, which will not mean much in the long term, and the £2bn raised altogether from this tax is nothing compared to their incomes (for comparison, Shell’s pre-tax net income last year was $35.3bn, about £21.7bn). That’s why their share price hasn’t budged in reaction.
The row about UK solar feed-in tariffs rumbles on. This morning, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne tried to persuade people in the South West that solar subsidies should not go to the kind of large-scale solar farms that are being developed in that part of the country.
His words seemed to back some of the arguments used by large-scale solar developers, who are up in arms about the government’s move. Firstly, even though the government is only announcing a review of which projects are eligible for subsidies, Huhne seems to have prejudged its outcome:
A 5MW solar farm could deny around 1500 homes from claiming FITs for solar panels on their roofs… At the moment the risk is, if we don’t deal with the excesses, then the whole thing will come grinding to a halt.
Bad news for those out there with high hopes of moving quickly to convert the world to electric vehicles.
A new report by Accenture, the consultancy, says that the large-scale rollout of plug-in electric vehicles will be hindered unless investors stimulate demand, lower the cost of public charging infrastructure and manage the impact on the grid. Those are three pretty big challenges.
The report is based on analysis of electric vehicles trials around the world – from Japan to The Netherlands to the UK.