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Joining the Sustainable Energy Association

Our latest recruit, Scott Blance reflects on his first 3 months at the SEA

I joined the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA) three months ago after two years spent within the energy retail sector. I really valued the commercial exposure I had on the graduate scheme at npower Business Solutions and the experience of working with some exceptional people. However, with a degree in International Relations and an abiding interest in politics and climate change, it was only a matter of time before I returned to the world of energy policy.

When I left university in 2015 the jobs market wasn’t exactly booming. I knew I wanted to work on areas related to climate change and that I’d need relevant experience before finding my ideal role. Working temporary gigs here and there – be it an internship in Brussels or a short-term contract with WWF Scotland – never dimmed my passion, rather it gave me a huge variety of experiences that benefit me to this day. Had I stayed in one place, I would not have had the chance to understand such a multitude of perspectives be they commercial, political or social. In my relatively short career I’ve posed with pandas in parliaments, evaluated trends in the energy market extensively and bagpiped in Brussels by the Berlaymont. But more importantly, I’ve learnt that energy and climate related issues are multi-layered and that only by involving a range of voices and stakeholders will we create lasting solutions to the climate crisis.

In the SEA I’ve joined an organisation that aligns with my own ideals and gives me the opportunity to really shape the future of energy policy. We exist to help create living and working spaces fit for future generations, by aligning the interests of consumers, business and politicians to make this a reality. To do so, we provide objective and evidence-based policy positions that seek to create an energy efficient, low-carbon, and warm building stock. As a technology agnostic organisation, membership spans multiple industries which has made for a steep learning curve. However, it’s a privilege to learn from our members who all have an encyclopaedic knowledge of their area.

It’s certainly an interesting time to be working in energy policy with 2019 seeing something approaching a step-change in public opinion on the climate crisis. Whether it be mass protests, school strikes or any documentary narrated by David Attenborough, climate change increasingly became an electoral issue in the past year. After the Government enshrined the 2050 net-zero target in legislation, the December election saw a green arms race as each party jockeyed for position as the most environmentally ‘woke’. It remains to be seen whether the new conservative Government will see through their manifesto commitments, but it’s a far cry from 2013 when the then Prime Minister David Cameron allegedly told staff to ‘cut all the green crap’.

As seismic as 2019 was, 2020 needs to be even bigger for energy policy, given the IPCC’s assessment that we have a decade to avert catastrophic climate change. The Building Regulations are currently undergoing their 5-yearly review and there is currently a precious window of opportunity to influence future policy and reduce carbon emissions from the Built Environment. Many voters may be unpleasantly surprised when Brexit continues to get a lot of airtime, but an opportunity exists for the UK to surpass the ambition of existing EU energy and environmental policies. The Treasury’s review of net-zero should lay out the costs in a way that hasn’t been done since the Stern Review and this should focus the minds of policymakers and campaigners alike in communicating the necessity of urgent climate action.  Finally, the UK is hosting COP26 in Glasgow in November. If the Government is to influence a breakthrough in the current global climate negotiations, we will need to practice what we preach.

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019