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By Earl Russell
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Striking a Balance: Achieving Net-Zero While Ensuring Affordable Energy Supply

3 min read

The Energy Security and Net Zero Select Committee aims to scrutinise the government’s approach to securing the UK’s energy supply and cutting emissions. Recently elected Chair, Angus MacNeil MP, outlines the priorities of the newly formed Committee.

Striking a balance between ensuring an affordable and secure energy supply while transitioning to a net-zero economy ranks as one of the most serious and testing challenges politicians have faced for a generation. The new Energy Security and Net Zero Committee in Parliament, which I have been elected by colleagues from across the House to chair, has the chance to play a key role in making sure the government is tackling the challenge head-on and putting the right policies in place.

To deliver these twin aims will require the careful balancing of a spectrum of policies and interests and the Committee will be listening to people and organisations across the energy and environmental sectors as we set our own priorities for the coming months.

One of the key stated aims of the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero is to bring down energy bills by securing energy supply this winter, next winter and in the longer term. As a Committee, we will be holding them to that.

Energy and net-zero are, of course, global concerns. The recent Qatar Economic Forum 2023, which had a major energy focus, took a big-picture view of questions surrounding net-zero in some of the sessions. It explored whether the technology is already there to achieve net-zero, and what still needs to be developed. Also stated at the Forum was the view that the Nordics have well-developed energy production but a less well-developed grid transmission capacity.

“If the government is to meet another of its core priorities by ensuring the UK is on track to hit its legally binding net-zero commitments, innovation in the economy is vital”

Back in the UK, despite a recent fall in the wholesale price of energy and Ofgem’s reduction in the price cap, consumers are still facing a tough time when it comes to gas and electricity bills. I believe these can be lowered, and I am keen that the Committee ensures an enduring government focus on the reduction of household fuel bills from Surrey to Sutherland, by investigating the structure of the energy market.

It is not just energy bills that households are struggling with. Food price inflation remains stubbornly high, driven by the cost of energy to be paid by businesses in the food manufacturing sector. The government has been asking the industry how to bring down prices. As UK Hospitality has said, one clear way would be to tackle high energy costs which are currently feeding through to the consumer.

The war in Ukraine has highlighted what a future with energy shortages and an unstable energy market might look like and, if the government is serious about securing energy supplies, it must learn the importance of investing in energy security and better recognise the role renewable energy can play.

There are plenty of alternatives to fossil fuels which can be tapped into across the UK. A prime example would be in my own constituency of Na h-Eileanan an Iar – probably the Saudi Arabia of wind energy and renewable energy.

If the government is to meet another of its core priorities by ensuring the UK is on track to hit its legally binding net-zero commitments, innovation in the economy is vital. There will be a number of competing interests and the Committee will play its role to ensure they all get a chance to present their evidence. 

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Read the most recent article written by Angus MacNeil MP - Ensuring cross-party accountability on net-zero