There’s no doubt that the energy sector is in the midst of a radical transition.
UK electricity consumption and carbon emissions have both been falling in recent years, driven by increased energy efficiency, the growth of renewable energy and the decline of coal.
Major technological developments are dramatically changing the way we produce, store and consume energy. Battery storage, smart grids, small modular reactors, and carbon capture use and storage are among the technologies that offer exciting opportunities.
But, in the absence of a long-term coherent energy policy, there are significant challenges to achieving this vision.
Market failures must be addressed through a more proactive role for the state in delivering what is a public good.
A skilled workforce
There is an urgent and growing need to replenish, expand and diversify the skilled workforce, including to maximise the industrial potential of UK expertise in areas such as R&D and decommissioning.
So it is timely to review what we actually require of our future energy system and to address how this can best be delivered.
Work we have undertaken to date has been informed by the union’s entire membership (member login required).
We chose to take this approach because of the energy sector’s crucial role in underpinning industrial and economic prosperity for everyone, and because it powers the public institutions that we all rely on and the lifestyles we choose to follow.
As a result we can distil a 10-point plan for the UK’s energy transition.
- A low carbon, balanced mix of generation sources to ensure resilience and security of supply.
- Certainty and stability for investment and R&D.
- A more holistic regulatory framework that prioritises investment and rewards spending.
- Fair prices for consumers both retail and wholesale, ensuring pricing transparency for all and support for the fuel poor.
- Flexibility to adjust to changing requirements – at local, regional and national levels - over the short and medium term.
- Renewed infrastructure across all parts of the system directed in the public interest.
- Continued ease of access to EU markets post-Brexit.
- Skilled staff who are treated fairly, including a strong pipeline of new entrants and just transition for those displaced by changing requirements.
- Trade union recognition and social partnership throughout the industry, including new corporate players.
- Establishment of an energy commission with responsibility for strategic policy oversight, setting objectives and determining the resources and measures needed to achieve them.
But this is not the end of the story. For each of these points there are important decisions to be made about how to deliver change for the better.
Today at Conference we will take the next steps in progressing our work, through debate on the floor and at a special breakout session where we will welcome contributions from expert parliamentarians and industry speakers.
We are very clear that action is urgently needed. It must be driven by evidence and informed debate and on the basis of social partnership. Prospect has a key role to play.