Adrian Waddelove is a Conservative Party candidate in the May 2023 local elections. He works for the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA).

Our political parties must be more realistic when setting arbitrary and inflexible net zero related targets – or face the economic and political consequences of failure in delivering them.

Carmakers are uneasy at the Government’s delays in publishing rules to ensure that 22 per cent of their sales must comprise of zero-emission cars with financial penalties if they fail to comply.

Essentially, the move will compel manufacturers to sell more electric cars – as the country heads towards a ban on the sale of cars with internal combustion engines in 2030.

Why are carmakers uneasy about this approach? Because of the timescale: it is due to come into force in 2024, in less than a year’s time. And they are still waiting for the finer details.

A similar policy is contained within the mighty Energy Security Bill (at the last count, 384 pages long), which is currently progressing through Parliament.

This so-called ‘market mechanism’ is aimed at forcing British boiler manufacturers to sell a percentage of electric heat pumps per year, or else face financial penalties, including the trading of credits with direct competitors.

To give some context, 90 per cent of the 1.7 million boilers installed in the UK each year are made here in this country. The majority of the approximate 43,000 heat pumps sold in the UK in 2021 were imported from foreign manufacturers.

Essentially, the scheme is a means of forcing British manufactures to sell more heat pumps, as the Government tries somehow tp reach Boris Johnson’s hugely ambitious target of 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028 – ahead of a ban on natural gas boilers from 2035.

Why are British boiler manufacturers’ uneasy about this policy? Because, once again, it is due to come into force in 2024 – under 12 months away. And they are still waiting for the finer details.

This approach has the capacity to completely destroy the British boiler industry, since it actively forces it to install foreign manufactured heat pumps, such as those made in China, over boilers that are made in Britain. The net result will be to drive manufacturing and jobs out of the UK and into the EU and further afield.

We hear senior Conservative politicians, including the Prime Minister, regularly talk about the need to seize the opportunities of Brexit.  This policy will result in the complete opposite of the rhetoric. No wonder EU-funded lobbyists are supportive of its implementation.

This, I would argue, constitutes an anti-Conservative distortion of the market economy. A policy more akin to that of a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party. And one which will have severe repercussions for jobs in the British energy sector.

As a Conservative candidate in the local elections in May 2023, I have heard at first-hand how these types of left-leaning policies are damaging the party electorally, and eroding our natural vote away on the doorstep.

Both examples suggest that politicians and civil servants are completely incapable of working with industry to produce clear policies combined with flexible targets.

I think most would agree that targets, in any walk of life, are important. They give focus to tasks, and give an idea a chance of becoming a reality.

But take the 600,000 heat pump installations per year target by 2028: it is completely unrealistic. We will not see an increase of nearly 1300 per cent in just seven years. And the current Boiler Upgrade Scheme, designed to encourage the uptake of heat pumps, is another Government-backed initiative which looks set to fail. With an average price tag of £13,000 per heat pump, it is little wonder that this policy seems doomed.

Similarly, Labour’s plan for zero-carbon power by 2030 should be met with scorn – another policy thought up by ‘advisers’ who think it will play well amongst voters with little or no reference to the realities. The amount of investment required would make Liz Truss’s plans for borrowing look reasonable.

And in case someone had not told Keir Starmer, Rachel Reeves and Ed Miliband, an increase in windfall tax on oil and gas companies will not cover the cost and will likely drive investment away from the UK.

And will what happens when these targets are missed? Another failure in delivery. Another commitment gone up in flames.

The Government and political parties of all stripes need to work with industry to set strategy and targets that can be met on time rather than announcing unworkable timeframes first and then consulting with industry experts later. These strategies should focus on helping, not hurting, our own companies.

And politicians and civil servants need to be open to amendments and policy alternations to ensure the best outcome for all involved. Industry have the answers to delivering government policy, but those at the top need to listen.

But the Government, in the haste to hit these arbitrary and largely undeliverable targets, is seemingly set to ignore its basic free-market principles and conservative ideas.

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