Bob Ruddiman: Next government must put energy in focus

'The UK needs to reinforce our position as a major energy-producing entity,' says Pinsent Masons partner Bob Ruddiman. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
'The UK needs to reinforce our position as a major energy-producing entity,' says Pinsent Masons partner Bob Ruddiman. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
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This snap election campaign was only 50 days long, but for many election and referendum-weary voters waking up this morning, it probably felt like 50 years.

There can be few people in the UK who will not welcome respite from hearing the phrase “strong and stable” but for those of us working in energy, a strong and stable energy policy is just what is required.

The UK needs to reinforce our position as a major energy-producing entity

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When sitting down for Brexit negotiations with our European neighbours, in what will likely be a ­protracted and take-no-prisoners approach by the remaining 27 EU nations, the UK needs to reinforce our position as a major energy-producing entity.

We have strength across the ­energy ­spectrum and the potential to drive ­sustainable energy supply in north-west Europe whilst exporting expertise and a skilled energy workforce globally. Indeed, one of the salient factors witnessed at play in energy markets in recent months is the importance of connected markets across Europe. Retaining the ­ability to ­transport energy across the continent to end-users without the handicap of ­punitive tariffs will be critically important post-Brexit.

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If we have yet another energy minister, high on his or her agenda should be adoption of policy which looks to the medium term and gives developers and owners of energy sources and transmission systems the confidence that investment on and off these shores is secure and sustainable. Only this approach will encourage investment required to maximise alternative energy opportunities and optimise returns from the UKCS, ­maintaining the encouraging signs of recovery in the North Sea, while consolidating the uptick in inward foreign investment and ownership we have seen in the last 12 months or so.

• READ MORE: North Sea oil revenue turns negative for the first time

The incoming government must ­continue to develop and diversify the nation’s energy resources, and now is the time to commit significant investment to research and development to ensure the UK remains pivotal amongst the nations ­driving the global energy agenda.

There is no shortage of issues which deserve attention and commitment – ­carbon capture and storage, research and investment in the development of battery storage, improving the efficiency of energy production and transmission, and supporting innovation to name a few.

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While Europe and Brexit will keep Downing Street fully occupied, the Cabinet will also no doubt be challenged in keeping abreast of fast-paced geopolitical change brought about by President Trump. He continues to disrupt and discard long-established agreements and treaties and his renunciation of the Paris climate agreement sent a chill around the world.

• READ MORE: Donald Trump announces withdrawal from Paris climate accord

As President Trump emphasises the ­perceived financial and economic burdens the Paris Agreement places on the US, it’s refreshing to be reminded that many states abhor his approach to climate science and shaping their own energy policy.

This week, Hawaii became the first state to defy President Trump and pass a law committing to the goals and limits of the Paris accord. The 50th State is one of more than ten states which has joined the US Climate Alliance, which together with major cities, corporations and universities, will submit a plan to the UN, pledging to meet the targets specified for the US in the accord. A willingness to adapt and innovate are essential life skills.

Bob Ruddiman is partner and head of energy at legal firm Pinsent Masons

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