Solar Media, the publisher of PV Tech, has partnered with law firm Eversheds to launch an informal Brexit energy forum.
The grouping, which includes major investors, utilities, renewable energy developers and policy experts from both sides of the channel met in London last week. With so much still to be decided following the Brexit vote, the focus is very much on initial steps for the industry as it also gets to grips with a new UK government.
“I think the new normal is regulatory uncertainty, and that provides opportunity,” said Huub den Rooijen, director of energy, minerals and infrastructure at the Crown Estate. “We are at a nexus where energy technology is changing rapidly, you see some technologies like offshore wind and solar PV really making step changes. There is a great need for new energy infrastructure investment and a lot of things happening, which actually make it a very exciting time to be alive and at work.”
The forum includes organisations operating inside and beyond the UK to ensure that the impact of Brexit on European energy as a whole is also considered. It is chaired by former Guardian energy editor Terry Macalister, who has summarised his thoughts on the Brexit energy group's first meeting in this blog.
“Uncertainty is the word everyone is using. I think it’s much bigger than that. It’s enormous. Uncertainty seems like an adjective which doesn’t really describe the unknown within which we now tread,” said James Watson, CEO of Brussels-based trade group, SolarPower Europe.
“On the other side of the channel there has been a massive amount of disbelief and shock at the decision the British made. From a solar perspective, solar really developed in Britain because of the renewable energy directive which is the European initiative. If you no longer have the European initiatives coming forward, is the British government going to put renewable energy directives to drive renewables in place?” he added.
Ros Kellaway, who heads Eversheds EU competition and regulatory group, attended the first meeting and ensured that the conversation was bounded by the legal realities. Working through the process of an eventual Brexit has also highlighted the opportunities for the energy industry to ensure it is not caught cold when negotiations begin.
“Article 50 says there will be an exit agreement, and we’ve been doing some work on what we’re going to need in that agreement and this includes some points on energy. I’d like to be able to develop that thinking and my suggestion would be that that’s really important work. For example, issues like do we want to join the emissions trading scheme, why can’t that be part of the exit agreement rather than part of any future trade agreement,” she noted.
With the group expecting civil servants to be under significant strain by Brexit, there is additional onus on the energy sector, and indeed all sectors, to ensure they are prepared to work with government on their key asks once the time arrives.
The findings of the group’s initial meeting will be released at Clean Energy Live in Birmingham, 4-6 October.