Cooling TowersSpending watchdog MPs on the Public Accounts Committee are concerned about lack of transparency, [and] about the cost to consumers of the Government’s plan to expand nuclear, solar and wind power.

In addition, the focus on "Carbon Capture Measures" are particularly worrying, from both a cost and desirability aspect, as it blindly accepts the premise that CO2 is a "Causation" of; Global Warming {?} or now "Climate Change". No latitude is given any any dissenting viewpoints such as Dr. Patrick Moore Lee Yun-Jeong Dr Richard Lindzen, even David Ballamy - In 2008 Bellamy signed the Manhattan Declaration, calling for the immediate halt to any tax-funded attempts to counteract climate change. He maintained a view that man-made climate change is "poppycock", insisting that climate change is part of a natural cycle!

In addition Energy Efficiency improvements both in buildings and in the Centralised Electricity systems are not given sufficient prominence - a tragedy considering their "low hanging fruit" aspects and inexpensive improvements. Particularly in the UK's Housing Stock {24.2 million} and the problems with building so few new {and highly energy efficient} properties. New Build Completions; 204,530 {to March 2022} AND 210,320 {to March 2023} and 6 months to September 2023 of 93,480 Completions - and much fewer starts due to Covid Lockdown {insanity}}  [Housing, Commercial Retail and Industrial].

The Government estimates that up to £400 billion of public and private investment in new generating capacity will be needed by 2037, but the PAC is unconvinced that the private sector has been given enough clarity to confidently invest.

In a critical report published below {on 15th June 2023}, the PAC calls on Government to pull together numerous decarbonisation plans into coherent strategy. This should be pulled together by autumn 2023 at the latest. 

The Government’s delivery plan must also set out when and how the costs of decarbonising the power sector will be likely to have an impact on energy bill payers and taxpayers.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “What is the plan? It has now long been understood and accepted that greening our economy is an existential priority, with the Government setting itself the target of securing an entirely low-carbon power supply by 2035.

  • “But without a coherent delivery plan to get there, the Government will find it harder to know what decisions it must take, and when, to ensure that it can realistically reach its ambitions.
  • “There are just twelve years left for the Government to meet its low carbon energy target, and much still to do if this is to be achieved – and at a cost the taxpayers and bill payers can bear while ensuring the lights stay on.
  • “There is an information vacuum in key areas – energy efficiency, investment, the cost of the transition to the public – that must be addressed.
  • “We need an overarching plan charting the way, to provide much-needed confidence to the businesses and consumers who are needed to deliver it. When it comes to tackling the climate crisis, we can see around us, we are already living on borrowed time.”

Actual Discussion and oral Evidence: On following pages

Public Accounts Committee

Oral evidence: Support for innovation to deliver net zero, HC 1331

Thursday 15 June 2023

Ordered by the House of Commons to be published on 15 June 2023.

Watch the meeting

Members (of Parliament) present: Dame Meg Hillier (Chair); Olivia Blake; Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown; Peter Grant; Anne Marie Morris.

Peter Gray, National Audit Office, Rebecca Sheeran, Executive Director, National Audit Office, and David Fairbrother, Treasury Officer of Accounts, were in attendance.

Questions 1 - 80

Witnesses: I: Jeremy Pocklington CB, Permanent Secretary, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero; Dr Damitha Adikaari, Director for Climate Science and Energy Innovation, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero; Sarah Munby, Permanent Secretary, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology; Steve Field, Director for Climate, Environment and Energy, HM Treasury.

Examination of witnesses

Witnesses: Jeremy Pocklington, Dr Damitha Adikaari, Sarah Munby and Steve Field.

Chair: Welcome to the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday 15 June 2023. As we all know, the UK Government have pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. We have been looking at this a lot on this Committee and we know that the target is hugely challenging and requires technical innovation in many areas. In 2021, the then Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, also known as BEIS, published its net zero research and innovation framework, which outlined all the research and technologies needed to decarbonise the economy and identified some of the challenges, priorities and timescales for that.

We are wanting to look again at that work with the now two Departments responsible for this. It will become apparent as we go through, I think, where the responsibilities lie. I would like to welcome our witnesses. We have Jeremy Pocklington, the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, who is joined by Dr Damitha Adikaari, the director for climate science and innovation at the Department.

We also have another Permanent Secretary, Sarah Munby, who is now the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, but, until it was reorganised, was the Permanent Secretary at BEIS, the Department for Business. Steve Field is the director for climate, environment and energy at HM Treasury. It sounds like you are ruling half the world, Mr Field, but let us hope that we can get some good answers from you today, which is obviously critical, because the cost of doing this is significant, but the cost of not doing it is even worse. If we get it right, it is a great opportunity.

Before we go into the main session, I wanted to pay tribute to Peter Gray, who is one of our fantastic supports at the National Audit Office, where he has been a director for a number of years. He is one of the longest-serving members of the National Audit Office. He joined in 1985, one year after it was actually formed in its current format. He has delivered over 70 value-for-money studies for Parliament and this Committee and served under five Public Accounts Committee Chairs. One of his first value-for-money studies was working on the subject of the 1988 sale of British Leyland to British Aerospace, which some people watching or listening might not even have heard about, because British Leyland seems like a long time ago.

We want to pay tribute as a Committee, because Peter himself has been great fun to work with, which is perhaps not what most people think about this Committee, but we have great conversations when we are preparing for our work. He is, as you would expect from the National Audit Office, fantastically insightful on his subject, and he really understands what we as Members need to hold you all to account on behalf of the British taxpayer. I want to put on record my tribute to Peter Gray for all the work he has done and wish him well in retirement. I should warn him that the previous director who resigned was, six weeks later, snapped up by another Select Committee as a special adviser, so watch this space. I warn our witnesses that he may not yet be gone for good, depending on what he decides to do.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: As deputy Chair, I have been on this Committee for nine years, on and off. I remember Peter from my first stint on this Committee at the beginning of the 2000s as a man who was always incredibly kind and courteous. Nothing has ever been too much trouble, Peter. Not only have you had great long service with the NAO, but you are incredibly knowledgeable. Nothing is too much trouble.

An example of that, Chair, that you will not know, is that I asked in a private briefing a number of questions and a detailed letter has already come back. There will be some questions from that detailed letter. Peter, may we thank you very much for all your long service and wish you very well in your future, whatever that brings? I hope you have many years of happiness to come.

Chair: I see some sighs of relief from witnesses that Peter Gray will not be helping to prepare us in future. As we all know, there are another 950 people who are hoping to emulate Peter’s excellent service, so thank you, Peter. Before we go any further, Ms Blake has a declaration of interest to make.

Olivia Blake: My husband is currently providing services to a community energy co-op, Sheffield Renewables, in the form of secretarial support.