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Energy Industry Welcomes Green Energy Summit After "Anxiety" Over Net Zero

The government is set to hold a net zero conference after business leaders warned its rhetoric on the environment risked jeopardising investment in UK energy. (Alamy)

3 min read

Energy industry figures have said the government's decision to host an energy sustainability conference in February is welcome after the government was warned that appearing to row back on net zero could jeopardise investment in UK energy.

Earlier this week government announced that the London Energy Conference, which will be held in spring 2024, will seek to bring together international governments and industry leaders on the issue of energy security.

Energy security and net zero secretary Grant Shapps said it would "bring together international governments and industry leaders to help rewire the global energy system and build collective resilience”.

The conference will also explore speeding up the deployment of "clean and resilient energy infrastructure" including renewables, nuclear, and North sea oil and gas production. 

Industry leaders have welcomed the move from the government, which strikes a different tone to its "pro-motorist" messaging last week, as well as the decision to  issue over 100 new licenses for oil exploration in the North Sea to "max out" supplies, which attracted widespread criticism that the UK could be deprioritising its net zero commitments. 

"Generally, a global conference focused on energy that we're going to have for the major players here in London isn't a bad thing at all," said Alex Gray, head of public affairs at Energy UK. 

"It's good to see the government leading on this stuff, and especially the language and change in tone we're seeing, at least from the secretary of state [Grant Shapps], in the last week or so. [There was] a bit of anxiety within the industry and within our members after last week.

"Signalling and language and tone is obviously very, very important. I think it's great to have this in the diary."

Net zero and green policies have become a political football in Westminster this summer after the Conservatives narrowly held onto former prime minister Boris Johnson's seat in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, largely due to a row over Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan's Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). 

Last week business leaders told PoliticsHome they feared the government was drifting away from its environmental commitments, which could damage business and investment in the UK following its decision to issue more licences for oil exploration in the North Sea.

Independent MP and chair of the energy security and net zero (ESNZ) select committee Angus MacNeil told PoliticsHome the government's "shortsighted" policies and rhetoric risk jeopardising investment in UK energy. 

Nathan Bennett, head of public affairs at Renewable UK, said the government's decision to hold the conference next year was "good news". 

"We welcome some of the statements that were made this morning about the importance of renewables, the significant role they've played in keeping energy bills down throughout the gas crisis over the last winter – and, generally speaking, I think these international events are a positive thing," Bennett said. 

"Much like COP26, I hope it'll focus minds within the department, and amongst politicians, on ensuring the UK is the best example of a successful energy transition we can be.

"Ultimately, investors fundamentally respond to the market that they exist in. So, you know, rhetoric is good, and it is welcome. But obviously, it then has to be matched by policy change on the ground."


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