Deputy Director Green Economy, Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS)
Climate and energy policy is never far from controversy, as I discovered on my return from Japan to take up a post leading the Green Economy Team in BIS. One of the first issues I had to deal with was the cumulative impact of policy costs on industry, and energy-intensive industries in particular; at the same time we were seeking to identify the best opportunities for the UK to maximise the benefits of the transition to a greener economy. This was a very broad canvas to get to grips with, speckled with a host of three-letter acronyms – EMR, CFD, CCL, CCA, ETS, CRC – each with its own peculiar history and intricacies.
There were some very big questions that needed to be asked, and the CSaP Policy Fellowship provided a safe haven to ask them, away from the complex nitty gritty of government policy development. What is the green economy, and how can you measure it? How can government deliver increased certainty to the market? What are the best options for decarbonising the economy? How can we manage the impact on our competitiveness?
The wide range of academics and entrepreneurs that I met during my two intensive visits to Cambridge provided an opportunity to discuss all of these questions. The engineers talked about novel solutions to offshore wind, materials efficiency and cost reduction; the economists explained that there were only two ways government could give greater certainty (either through a contractual obligation, or by linking the policy to a revenue stream for the Treasury); and the entrepreneurs pointed to some inspiring examples of low-cost solutions that had been developed in emerging economies. Chemists, biologists and others all gave their own unique perspectives – on batteries and biofuels, for example – as well as insights into how academia can engage more effectively with policy development.
My Fellowship is not over, but already it has left enduring benefits. The ability to seek an informal expert view from a range of experts has given me increased confidence in setting the overall policy direction for my team and advice to Ministers. It has also strengthened my dialogue with external stakeholders by providing a third point against which to triangulate different views.
One of the most notable outcomes, however, was the opportunity to become directly involved in the establishment of the UK InDemand Centre, a new national research centre that will look at both energy and material flows through the economy and ways to increase efficiency and reduce energy use. I was very pleased to be able to support the funding application for the Centre and subsequently to join the steering board. The Centre works closely with steel, automotive, power and construction industries, and I look forward to the research output contributing directly to work being undertaken by BIS and DECC to develop 2050 roadmaps for energy-intensive sectors.
I am sure that the legacy left by the Policy Fellowship will endure long beyond its formal end, and I very much welcome the creation of an alumni group, and the “first friday” lunches which enable Policy Fellows to get together across government to share challenges and ideas.