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Sturgeon’s energy substitute sparks into life

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Wales plans an energy firm to secure low energy prices

Nicola Sturgeon has launched her energy advice agency five years after promising a publicly-owned generator – and a day after the Welsh government unveiled plans to create a state-backed developer.

Heat & Energy Efficiency Scotland (HEES), a virtual agency, will help consumers improve energy efficiency and co-ordinate the delivery of investment programmes.

HEES featured in the recent Programme for Government and will be backed by a marketing campaign in November.

While experts and climate campaigners will welcome moves to reduce carbon emissions and cut back on energy consumption, critics note that the agency is a substitute for the planned energy generator that Ms Sturgeon promised at the 2017 SNP conference.

“By the end of this parliament we will set up a publicly owned, not for profit energy company,” she told delegates. It would give customers more choice “and the option of a supplier whose only job is to secure the lowest price for consumers”.

Daily Business revealed in September last year that the government had dropped the plan, and opted instead for the advisory body.

Ms Sturgeon recently said that it would have been difficult to set up a generating company without more legislative and borrowing powers.

However, in Cardiff yesterday, Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, announced the creation of a state-owned energy developer in response to energy insecurity, the cost-of-living crisis and the increasing threats posed by the climate and nature emergencies.

Lorne Crerar: member of Scottish agency board

Speaking in the Senedd, the Minister said energy profits created in Wales will deliver “greater benefit for people in Wales”.

Surplus funds generated through the new developer will go back into the public purse to be reinvested in improving energy efficiency in homes in Wales and creating good quality, home grown, clean energy jobs.

Ms James added: “We will set up a publicly-owned renewable energy developer. This is a long-term sustainable investment that puts net zero and the communities of Wales at the heart of the transition we need.”

HEES will have an independent strategic board that includes the lawyer Lorne Crerar, Scottish Renewables CEO Claire Mack, and the serial director Graeme Bissett, It has been established to support, advise and oversee the agency.

The Scottish Government has committed at least £1.8 billion to green heat and energy efficiency programmes over the course of this parliament, supporting a vision for more than one million homes and non-domestic buildings to be running on zero direct emissions heating systems by 2030.

Commenting on today’s launch, Net Zero & Energy Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Scotland’s homes and buildings account for around a fifth of all our emissions, and we need to take bold, urgent action to ensure we cut these emissions in line with our ambitious climate targets.

“It will take an unprecedented level of leadership and co-ordination to ensure that everyone, from industry to individual households, has access to the right support to deliver this green heat transformation. Heat & Energy Efficiency Scotland will provide this.”

The members of Heat & Energy Efficiency Scotland’s Strategic Board are:

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