On 30 November leading industry and political figures joined Prospect representatives from across the energy industry for the Parliamentary launch of our new pamphlet ‘A sustainable future for UK energy’.
It is clear that, whilst the energy industry is in the midst of a radical transition, the current political and media debate is being conducted in a way that simply does not meet our increasingly urgent need for a long-term sustainable energy policy. The Government’s latest announcements, in the Budget and Industrial Strategy White Paper, don’t help much either. Little noticed Budget statements about future carbon levies and the carbon price send confusing signals to say the least, and, for all positive words about a so-called clean growth grand challenge, there appears to be no implementation plan. A nuclear sector deal, built on social partnership between employers and unions, was notably absent from the Industrial Strategy.
It was therefore gratifying to hear that some politicians recognise the need for an evidence-led, technically informed debate. Rachel Reeves MP and Mary Creagh MP, both Chairs of influential Select Committees, paid tribute to the expertise and experience of Prospect members. Phil Jones, Chief Executive of Northern Powergrid provided a timely reminder of the value of an energy infrastructure that is often taken for granted. Elinor Harrison, a nuclear engineer who leads Prospect’s Young Professionals Network, posed the challenge starkly, stating that her own workplace is due to shut down in 2024 leaving her at ‘not yet 30 and already needing to prepare for potential future career changes’.
Mike Clancy, General Secretary, pledged that Prospect ‘traditionally the union of big energy’ would become ‘the union of future energy’. Reflecting both on the scale of the challenges and the opportunities ahead of us, he outlined Prospect’s six steps to a sustainable energy future:
- A balanced, low-carbon energy mix including a nuclear component;
- Establishment of an Energy Commission with responsibility for strategic policy oversight and long-term energy planning;
- Action on the skills crisis, including boosting recruitment from the entire talent pool and ensuring that existing workers are properly valued;
- Addressing market failure through a full and independent assessment that includes a strong input from workers;
- More and better co-ordinated R&D to ensure that the UK can seize new technological opportunities; and
- Preparation for life outside the EU that preserves key energy relationships with Europe.
The launch of our pamphlet opens a new phase in Prospect’s energy policy work, which will include wider engagement with employers, Parliamentarians, other stakeholders and, crucially, with our members and future members.
Download the pamphlet from the Prospect library: A sustainable future for UK energy