Industry reacts to appointment of new Energy Security Secretary

Claire Coutinho has been urged to take immediate action to restore the UK’s position as the top choice for global renewable energy investment

Big Zero Report 2023

Claire Coutinho has officially assumed the role of the new Energy Security Secretary, succeeding Grant Shapps.

Expressing her joy about the appointment, Claire Coutinho shared her enthusiasm on the platform X, formerly referred to as Twitter.

Ms Coutinho said: “I am delighted to have been appointed Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero. I will work with the Prime Minister to safeguard our energy security, reduce bills for families and build cleaner, cheaper, homegrown energy.”

However, how is the energy sector reacting to the appointment of the new Energy Security Secretary?

Re-establish the UK as the best destination for renewables 

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Officer, Dan McGrail, has welcomed Claire Coutinho’s appointment as Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero.

In light of the current global economic challenges facing the clean energy sector, Mr McGrail has emphasised the urgent need for proactive steps from the new Secretary of State.

Dan McGrail said: “We need urgent intervention from the new Secretary of State to re-establish the UK as the best destination for international investment in renewables, as our competitors are upping the ante and trying to lure developers and manufacturers elsewhere.”

Documents should be marked urgent

Jess Ralston, an Energy Analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, stated: “The in-tray for the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary of State is pretty full with documents that should be marked urgent.

“An announcement on the latest auction of the flagship renewables Contracts for Difference scheme is expected next week and may not deliver much which would leave bill payers footing the bill for failure given gas power stations are set to remain much more expensive than new offshore wind farms.

“Energy efficiency schemes that have delivered bill savings for homes in the past are flatlining and the government’s delay to insulation standards in the private rented sector will see renters, who are also voters, facing higher energy bills in the years to come.

“There is a lack of clarity on the fossil fuel boiler phase-out both on and off the gas grid, and the heating industry faces losing £65 million per year in exports if we go slow on heat pumps.”

Energy bills at record levels

Simon Francis, Coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, has stressed the pressing challenges for the new Energy Secretary.

These include addressing high energy bills, banning forced prepayment meter transfers, enhancing energy efficiency in rented properties, and expediting electricity market reforms for affordable renewable energy.

Simon Francis said: “Energy bills remain at record levels with every unit of energy costing double what it did in winter 2020/21, with daily standing charges also increasing and customers in record levels of energy debt.”

Fellow runners have mostly been walking

Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK‘s Policy Director, has compared the role of the Energy Security Secretary to picking up a baton in a relay race.

Dr Parr said: “She’s picked up the baton for the final leg of a relay where her fellow runners have mostly been walking, sometimes backwards. Her department has a huge amount of catching up to do to tackle both the energy and climate challenges in her new job title.

“Fortunately, there are plenty of things that will deliver on both, from removing absurd blockages to cheap renewables to fixing our energy-wasting homes and bringing our power grid into the 21st century.

“In her maiden speech, Claire Coutinho described renewables as ‘one of the most remarkable success stories in the UK today’. Perhaps she could persuade the Prime Minister to build on that success story instead of blocking it.”

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