New department for energy security and net-zero

Prime minister Rishi Sunk this week confirmed that the department of business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) will be split into four new departments, including a new department for energy security and net-zero.

Grant Shapps has been appointed secretary of state for energy security and net-zero and his department will be tasked with “securing our long-term energy supply, bringing down bills and halving inflation”. It will also need to secure “more energy from domestic nuclear and renewable sources as we seize the opportunities of net-zero”.

The changes are in response to the significant impact rising prices have had on households and businesses. Hospitality businesses have been struggling with soaring bills for months, as well as the “disgraceful” behaviour of energy suppliers, according to UKHospitality. The organisation’s chief executive Kate Nicholls said the new department is “good news”. 

“[…] the importance of energy to business operations cannot be overstated,” she explained, adding that the separation of energy and net-zero policy within government “must not lead to any disconnect in policymaking and engagement. In fact, working together will also be essential for hospitality businesses to deliver economic growth and achieve its net-zero ambitions.”

Historically high global energy prices were one of the reasons the government tasked its former energy minister, Chris Skidmore, to review its net-zero strategy. He recently published his 129 recommendationsand concluded that the UK could do much more to reap the economic benefits of green growth. Businesses need to be backed, said Skidmore. 

There is hope that the new department will ensure Skidmore’s recommendations are put into play quickly. “We hope this reshuffle heralds the government's intention to respond with all possible speed to the Skidmore review and the publication of the UK's updated net-zero strategy,” said Sarah Mukherjee, chief executive of the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA).

Green Alliance policy director Dustin Benton tweeted that “electricity no longer needs the really big policy shift – we made renewables cheap last decade, making further deployment a no brainer. More to do but no heroics. Industry, heating, transport, and agriculture/land are where the biggest challenges are now.”

The likes of Nick Molho, executive director at the Aldersgate Group, echoed the need for collaboration across Whitehall. “It is important that the creation of the department for energy security and net-zero does not obscure the fact that achieving net-zero will require business model and infrastructure changes across the whole economy,” he said.

A dedicated department for science, innovation and technology, a combined department for business and trade and a re-focused department for culture, media and sport were also announced this week.

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