Onward is growing: We are delighted to announce our new research programme, Science Superpower, which will explore how Britain can lead the world in the discovery and application of scientific ideas. The programme will be headed by Matt Burnett as Head of Science and Technology, with Maria Priestley as Senior Researcher.
We are also pleased to welcome Ed Birkett as Head of Energy and Climate. He will be leading our Getting to Zero research programme.
Thin Ice? was cited in an iNews article exploring public support among Conservative voters for net zero
After a two year hiatus, we are bringing back Onward After Hours, our events series for young people. We are delighted to be joined by Claire Coutinho MP, Member of Parliament for East Surrey, on Wednesday 20th April for drinks and a chance to discuss the policy agenda.
These events will bring together journalists, special advisers, parliamentary staffers and more, connecting the next generation of centre-right political thinkers.
Head to our website here for more details on the location of the event and how to sign up.
This week, the Government will publish the “Energy Security Strategy”, its response to soaring energy prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Media reports suggest that the Strategy has been delayed by disagreements between No 10, No 11, and the Business department (BEIS) over funding for new nuclear power stations, and divergent views between Cabinet Ministers on new onshore wind farms in England.
Onshore wind and fracking remain particularly contentious. At one point, the Strategy was expected to reverse David Cameron’s 2015 decision to effectively ban new onshore wind farms in England. However, these plans have met with stiff opposition from Conservative MPs, including Cabinet Ministers. It now looks like any changes to the ban on onshore wind in England will be modest, and dependent on evidence of strong local support.
The other potentially divisive issue in the Strategy is fracking. In 2019, fracking was banned in England following seismic activity at a test site in Lancashire. Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 29 Conservative MPs called for the ban on fracking to be lifted. While fracking is unlikely to play a major role in the Strategy, we could see a review of safe limits of seismic activity.
While new production facilities can reduce energy imports in the medium and long term, the only way to meaningfully reduce imports before next winter is by reducing demand. It is therefore surprising that the Government isn’t talking more about demand reduction, perhaps fearing the public backlash faced by some energy suppliers earlier this year.
Given the scale of the current energy crisis, the Government could launch an information campaign on matters like how to turn down boiler flow temperatures. To limit political risk the Government could ask a trusted third-party to deliver the campaign, for example the Energy Saving Trust.
For the Strategy to deliver on its long-term promises, it will need to address thorny questions about how energy markets will operate once all these new projects are built. Without major changes, there’s a risk that the electricity market in particular will cease to function properly.
To address this challenge, the Strategy needs to consider reforms to Great Britain’s electricity market. This should include considering “local electricity pricing” for generators and industrial customers, something that National Grid has said is needed to deliver Net Zero cost effectively.
Ed Birkett, Head of Energy and Climate at Onward
The Household Support Fund is set to receive £500 million in new funding, doubling the total to £1 billion to help the most vulnerable households combat rising prices of essential goods. Link
£1 billion of funding has been announced for a package of policies for vulnerable families to level up opportunities for children across the country, including early years assistance, expansion of Family Hubs, and extra measures for looked after children. Link
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport has announced its plans for an independent regulator for football by the next general election to oversee the sport’s regulation and compliance, as we recommended in our report A Sporting Chance. Link