What government can scrap in its ‘red tape challenge’
Here at the Green Alliance offices, we’ve received a nice letter from the energy minister, Charles Hendry, inviting us to contribute to the Government’s ‘red tape challenge’. This month’s iteration of the challenge asks us to suggest troublesome energy and environmental regulations that are a burden to our activities.
So we took a bit of time one afternoon to trawl through the regulations to identify any that might prevent us from being able to work effectively…
Out of nearly 300 regulations, we found four that match the Government’s criteria for the scheme – burdensome regulations that are a barrier to green growth*:
- Dark Smoke (Permitted Periods) Regulations 1958 Allows derogation from the Clean Air Act 1993 (CAA) s1 prohibition on dark smoke emissions from industrial plant, allowing specified short-term emissions
- Dark Smoke (Permitted Periods) (Vessels) Regulations 1958 Allows derogation from the CAA s44 prohibition on dark smoke emissions from vessels, allowing specified short-term emissions
- Clean Air (Emission of Dark Smoke) (Exemption) Regulations 1969 Disapply the CAA s2 prohibition on smoke emissions from industrial or trade premises in relation to burning
- Clean Air (height of chimneys) (exemption) regulations 1969 Sets out exemptions (eg for temporary plant) from the requirements of CAA s14 to have a chimney height approved.
As exemptions from regulation in the Clean Air and Dark Smoke Acts, these four ‘regulations’ are a barrier to stopping air pollution. The regulations are pretty old, with modern biomass boilers not suffering from dark smoke, so we see no reason not to scrap these them. In fact, scrapping the exemptions might lead to economic stimulus if businesses replace older, polluting equipment and processes with more efficient new equipment and processes.
What’s more, as the government is operating a ‘one in one out’ approach to regulation, this leaves room for some rather helpful new ones…
– A strong Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) for power stations with grandfathering provisions (how long future plants can pollute for) linked to our carbon budgets. This would need to be designed to guide new and existing fossil fuel power plants to use Carbon Capture and Storage and Combined Heat and Power for baseload operation or to only run for short periods of time to help balance the power grid. This new regulation would give a clear pathyway for decarbonisation over the next two decades, and would help power companies and manufacturers to plan the most efficient way of decarbonising.
– Make ecodesign regulations (eg. for ‘A’ rated freezers) progressive. This means de-linking energy use from size so that larger sized products would have to use the same amount of energy as smaller sized products. This would align UK product standards with forthcoming US product standards and help to counteract the trend of ever larger appliances undermining emissions reductions from product standards. We could also take an example from Switzerland, which will, in 2012, require all driers sold in Switzerland to carry the A rating, effectively banning conventional driers from the market.
– Extend the ban, from 2018, on renting out properties in Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) bands F and G to sales of homes in these bands. Combined with the Green Deal, this would give owner-occupied households (around 67% of all homes) both a carrot and stick to improve energy efficiency.
With a net reduction in regulations, these would meet Government’s desire to cut red tape while driving innovation in environmentally efficient technology and cutting energy use. What’s not to like?
*We wrote this before the Chancellor pre-empted the challenge by asserting in his Autumn Statement, without evidence, that the habitats directive and carbon floor price (a regulation of his own making), amongst others, were burdens to business. More on this soon.