The introduction of trade barriers following Brexit could inflate the cost of importing electricity and gas from Europe and drive up British energy bills, suppliers and energy bodies have warned.
Energy groups including French firms EDF and Energie have signed a letter to European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and UK Prime Minister Theresa May cautioning that any post-Brexit tariffs imposed on the use of interconnectors, electricity cables and gas pipelines between the UK and continental Europe, would hit consumers’ wallets and stall progress against climate change.
A free flow of energy across Europe is necessary to maintain “a level playing field that keeps costs down for consumers and ensures decarbonisation and security of supply,” the letter, dated 4 September, states.
The letter argues that the free use of interconnectors is vital to Europe’s transition to cleaner energy and the fight against global warning. Imported energy helps balance energy supplies and provides backup sources of power when wind and solar energy aren’t available.
“Any imposition of tariff or non-tariff barriers to the flows of energy across interconnectors would increase the cost of the low carbon transition and set back action on climate change,” the letter, whose signatories included green energy groups RenewableUK and WindEurope, states.
Signatories have urged that Brexit negotiations prioritise a “comprehensive climate and energy chapter” to smooth the transition. They have also pushed for the UK and the EU to continue to cooperate to implement the Paris climate agreement and for the UK to maintain its participation in the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) until 2030.
“The EU ETS has created a level environmental playing field for energy intensive facilities across Europe. Unpicking the UK’s participation in the mechanism would be complicated,” the letter states.
Currently 6% of the UK’s electricity demand is met by power imported from Europe via interconnectors. The figure is expected to rise to 20% as between 8 and 14 GW of new interconnectors come online in 2019. However, a hard Brexit could compromise future investment in cross-border energy links.
Tariffs on imported electricity could also jeopardise the existence of the Irish single electricity market, the letter warns. The UK government has already drawn up plans to send generators on barges to Northern Ireland if the Irish electricity market collapses in the wake of a no-deal Brexit.
The letter echoes concerns already voiced by the House of Lords and British energy bodies that a no-deal Brexit could be chaotic and costly for the UK’s energy supply and policy.
Pete Clutton-Brock, from the E3G environmental think tank which coordinated the letter, said a no-deal Brexit “would lead to an increase in UK energy bills, undermine action on climate change and threaten the supply chains of strategically important industries such as offshore wind, electric vehicles and battery technology.”
A government spokesperson dismissed concerns raised in the letter: “The UK has always been one of the most ambitious and leading countries in the world, including Europe, when it comes to tackling climate change and that commitment is unwavering.
“As set out in the [Brexit] white paper, we will maintain our high standards after we leave the European Union and we will respond in full to this letter in due course.”
An additional 25,000 homes and businesses in the Scottish Highlands and Islands will be given access to superfast broadband under the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) scheme, part of the wider Broadband Delivery UK project.
Someone owns the copyright on that photo of Grumpy Cat. Ditto the “This is Fine” dog and “Dude Looking at a Girl Who Isn’t His Girlfriend,” before and after you slathered text boxes on them and hit share.
Telecoms regulator Ofcom is consulting on plans to force network providers to notify customers reaching the ends of their phone and broadband contracts.
The local authority in Norfolk is currently in the process of deciding how best to finance the upcoming stage of their Better Broadband for Norfolk scheme (BBfN).
The Welsh government is set to announce plans to expand existing ‘superfast broadband’ network coverage to the whole country.
Currently Wales is falling just short of full fibre coverage with roughly 97% of the country connected but only 93-94% are achieving the “Superfast” speeds of 30Mbps+. The project has been aided primarily through £225m of investment via a collaboration between BT Openreach and Superfast Cymru.
Wales is currently just behind the 95% coverage target for “superfast” connectivity. Many have blamed Openreach for failing to deliver on this target, with the company having run into some problems trying to connect the last few per-cents of the more rural and remote locations across the country.
The Welsh government announced on Wednesday their new plans for a fully connected Wales. Chief Whip Julie James AM, told the BBC:
“The Superfast Cymru scheme has been hugely successful for those people who have received [superfast broadband] from it. There are an enormous number of people across Wales, and it’s in the nature of the beast that we’re not inundated by letters from people who are grateful to have received it.…I intend to carry out a procurement exercise shortly, with a view to the new project starting in spring this year.”
Current funding for the last leg of the project sits at around £80m which, when you factor in the 98,145 properties that are still to be connected, equals around £816 per premises. Whether or not the allotted funding will be enough remains to be seen and it is possible that they may need some additional private investment to achieve their goal. Remote areas with little or no network infrastructure are disproportionately more expensive to reach so only time will tell if this has been factored in to the £80m.
If the money does come up short, then there is a possibility that the Welsh Government may have to adopt a more cost-effective option such as offering satellite internet to reach the more far flung communities. This could spell good news for some of alternative network providers but at the moment it’s uncertain exactly which direction the Welsh Government will take if the funding isn’t enough.