Yesterday, we finally received all the details on the Energy Bill, both inclusions and omissions. The Bill, its explanatory notes, all the accompanying documents will, I’m sure, make for some heavy bedtime reading for some, before the second reading of the Bill, which I now understand will be on the 19th December. We’re already getting some reactions to it from a variety of quarters, but one aspect that has been curiously unremarked so far relates to the announcement from the Secretary of State last week, that very much set the scene for the publication of the Bill. This trailed most of content headings on the basis that the Sec of State was announcing a final agreement on the clearly rather rancorous talks that had been going on over weeks between Treasury and DECC about who could do what where and when, and spend what, and, by the way, whether there should be a target for decarbonisation on the face of the Bill, or whether there should be a ‘dash for gas’ instead.
This ‘agreement’ was cast as a hard won outcome for renewables in return, essentially for removing a target from the Bill. Not a bad bargain, many commentators concluded. And here was the evidence, in the small print. The infamous’ levy cap’ limiting expenditure incurred by DECC through levies for renewables such as Renewable Obligation Certificates and FITs, would now run through to 2020. ‘The LCF budget is currently £2.35 billion for low carbon electricity in 2012/13. Under the agreement announced today low carbon electricity spending under the LCF will rise to £7.6 billion in real terms in 20/21’ and will support levies for wind, carbon capture and storage and new nuclear. This, it was said ‘is broadly consistent with the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation’.
Looks very good, doesn’t it? £7.6 billion to spend on renewables in 2020, an enormous rise from the present levy spend of £2.35 billion. That is how it is presented, but on a bit of examination, it doesn’t end up looking quite that way
This is because expenditure on ROCs (and subsequently, Contracts for Difference from 2017) is all ‘grandfathered’ each time a new wind farm or biomass plant starts producing energy. That is, the RO continues at approximately the level initially agreed for a set period. ROCs last twelve years; CFDs look like they will last about fifteen years for wind, and perhaps thirty years for new nuclear. So ALL plants that have come on stream since 2008 (that’s almost everything ROCable) will continue to receive levied money through 2020. And this continuing effect is included in the levy control framework. Thus, the cost of levies for renewables becomes cumulative over the period as successive new plants come on stream.
If we count this effect into the framework, something interesting happens. We can roughly calculate how much there is in the levy cap for new plant each year. This is how it works out for the published figures up to 2015.
|Year||Cap for ROCs etc||Cumulative payment||Amount for new entrants|
Now all we know so far is that the 2015-20 cap will ‘rise’ to £7.6 billion by 20/21. It would be nice if Treasury published the full figures, but as far as I know, that hasn’t happened yet. But we can do some indicative plotting of what that crucial ‘new entrants’ money each year might be. Here’s one scenario of how we get to that £7.6 bn figure
|Year||Cap for ROCs/cfd/Fit||Cumulative payment||Amount for new entrants|
In other words, almost exactly the same for new entrants in each year as we will have by 2015.…which is by no means insignificant, but at the same time needs to be spread across a wider ‘new entrants’ base each year, and even possibly new nuclear, if it comes on stream before 2021.
However, this level of levy funding nowhere reaches the projections of what we will need to do by 2020, according to the Committee on Climate Change. This is what they said on Wind, for example in their 2012 progress report (p89):
- Around 0.5 GW offshore wind capacity was added to the system in 2011, slightly exceeding our indicator for 2011. This brings total offshore capacity installed broadly on track at 1.8 GW at end-2011, after additions fell short in 2010.
- Looking forward, there needs to be a considerable increase in build rates for both onshore (to 1.5 GW each year by 2020) and offshore (to 1.8 GW each year by 2020) to achieve the 27 GW of wind capacity by 2020 set out in our indicator framework.
I’m not sure that a ‘new entrants cap’ that supported half a gigawatt of wind coming onstream in 2011 can easily stretch to support three times that amount each year over the next eight years, let alone accommodate other renewables that may gain ROCs, or later, CfDs. It’s a bit misleading, therefore to present what is essentially a levy cap budget continuation at present levels (better than no budget, I agree…) as reaching Climate Change Committee recommendations.
It looks like DECC may have been sold a little bit of an Andrex puppy on this agreement. Exchanging a continuation of present levy funding for the removal of targets from the Bill doesn’t look like such a good deal, especially since the substantial ramping up of new entrants in the period up to 2020 will be an essential part of reaching anything like a reasonable target for decarbonisation by 2030.
Of course, my admittedly very general calculations, or my assumptions about cumulation could be wrong. But they would need to be very wide of the mark to restore the effect that the Secretary of State so strongly advocated last week. I will be asking some Questions on this – and it would be helpful if in the meantime, the Department produced an annual breakdown of the cap up to 2020, like they have for the period up to 2015. Then we could see for sure what is going on.