Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)


  The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body representing managers, and other professionals, who are responsible for the stewardship of environmental assets. CIWEM's agreed purpose is to develop and promote the better and integrated management of the environment; to foster a better understanding of water and environmental issues and to enhance the quality of people's lives. This is achieved through CIWEM's Royal Charter; education, training and development; dissemination of information; conferences and events; research and publications; contact with government, agencies and other bodies; partnerships with other organisations, and the publication of Policy Position Statements (PPS).

  CIWEM welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Sustainable Energy Inquiry. The Institution is pleased to offer this text as CIWEM's contribution to the Committee's Inquiry and we would be pleased to give oral evidence if invited to do so.


    —  CIWEM supports the overall vision of the Energy Review of a low carbon energy future for the UK. Whilst the pathway to this future will be very demanding, particularly for the timescales suggested in the Review, CIWEM believes that it is achievable—but only if sufficient resources, commitment and consensus are given to this Vision by the whole of the UK.

    —  CIWEM considers that a single co-ordinating body for Sustainable Energy is vital to achieve a low carbon energy future. There are already numerous initiatives, policies and legislation which promote the key steps to this low carbon future, such as energy efficiency and increased renewables. However, a lack of awareness and absence of urgency means that take-up and implementation have been very low to date. In addition, there are a number of government policies relating to energy which are in conflict. NETA and renewables is a prime example but there are many others.

    —  The key barrier to further immediate progress in sustainable energy is not so much a lack of initiatives and policies—it is a lack of awareness and a lack of consistency. CIWEM therefore welcomes the proposal for a Sustainable Energy Policy Unit in the short term but considers that a more overarching co-ordinating energy body is essential in the longer term. Clearly all the strands of UK energy use (including transport, electricity, heating, industrial processes and domestic) must be tackled in a coherent way. However, responsibilities for planning and policies on these energy sectors are currently spread across a very wide range of government departments with very little co-ordination. The Review does have some welcome suggestions for the longer term management of energy policy and these should be developed further for detailed debate.

    —  A low carbon energy future will require all energy sources, not just electricity, to switch to sustainable forms. CIWEM therefore strongly supports measures to innovate in a wide range of energy technologies. Pilot schemes will be an important part of this and an Energy Research Centre would be a very useful mechanism for promoting innovation. The aim should not be to "spot winners" but to accelerate the market entry of those technologies that are viable.

    —  CIWEM believes that UK energy policy needs to take account of European and world energy policy and strategies. There is an opportunity for greater engagement by the UK in these fora.

    —  CIWEM has greater concerns than those expressed in the Review over the possibility of the UK being heavily reliant on gas for an interim period whilst renewables expand. The world gas market has, and is likely to have, a limited number of major market suppliers whose stability is doubtful. Security is a major concern for gas, more so than other fuel supplies. CIWEM believes that the future role of gas needs further careful consideration before the UK is committed to one imported fuel for the majority of electricity and heating.

    —  CIWEM is also concerned that a clearer decision needs to be made on the future role of nuclear power.

    —  One further concern of CIWEM on the energy mix is the future of UK coal-fired generation in the medium term. Coal currently provides a vital role in meeting peak electrical demands in a flexible, low cost way. With the Large Combustion Plant Directive in place and other continuing environmental pressures, the capacity of UK coal-fired power stations is likely to have reduced to a very minor role by 2015 as ageing stations are closed and no significant new build is envisaged. Closures could accelerate even faster if further environmental constraints are implemented in future years. The Review does not adequately address what interim sources will take up this "peak supply" role of coal whilst energy efficiency and renewables are still being expanded. These peak periods have a key role in determining electricity prices and overall capacity.

    —  Finally, as noted above, CIWEM believes that this energy Vision is only achievable if sufficient resources, commitment and consensus are provided by the whole of the UK—that is, all the stakeholders in UK energy. All energy sectors and particularly the general public must be engaged in debate—and the first step is to achieve a national awareness that a fundamental decision must be made about the energy future. At present, there is no perception that there is a looming energy decision—except perhaps customers "feeling" that prices are too high. All the environmental evidence points in the opposite direction, but there is no awareness of this as a national issue, nor of the possibility that there may be unavoidable tradeoffs in reaching a sustainable energy future.


  CIWEM strongly supports the need for a national public debate about sustainable energy, including the roles of nuclear power and renewables. However, the challenge presented in engaging the UK in such a debate should not be underestimated. The debate must be real and provoking—the current initiatives to stimulate discussion on the future NHS are comparable to what is needed for energy. Anything less will simply defer the real national debate to a later date, when time and options for the UK will be reduced.

  We hope that this evidence is helpful. If you wish us to expand upon, or clarify, any of the points we have raised, please do not hesitate to contact us.

  We confirm that CIWEM would be delighted to give oral evidence to the Committee if invited to do so.

March 2002

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