Reforming the business energy efficiency tax landscape

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1 Reforming the business energy efficiency tax landscape Consultation response from: Emission Trading Group (ETG) Contact details: John Craven, ETG welcomes this review of the business energy efficiency tax landscape and is very pleased that Government is considering how a simplified landscape could look. We look forward to ongoing dialogue with Government as proposals are considered. 1 Do you agree with the principle of moving away from the current system of overlapping policies towards a system where a single business/organisation faces one tax and one reporting scheme? Please provide evidence on level and types of benefits of an approach like this. Harmonising the current mix of reporting schemes and establishing one reporting regime will reduce the administrative burden on industry. Such a scheme could establish a basic reporting regime for the entire population, with further requirements if certain situations apply to particular organisations; for example if incentives or reliefs are applied then the data gathered through this single reporting regime could be utilised and reported. In designing such a scheme, we would like the lessons learnt from other schemes to be taken into account, particularly reflecting organisational complexity and when an organisational or site/activity based approach is appropriate. Simplicity in taxation is desirable. A necessary requirement is to protect those organisations that are put at a competitive disadvantage due to the tax. Any changes to taxes and reporting should be designed through a consultative and transparent process. Such thorough consultation should help to avoid any unintended consequences arising. Any new policies or mechanisms should be communicated well in advance of their implementation so that organisations are given sufficient time to respond effectively before they are impacted. 2 Do you agree that mandatory reporting should remain as an important element of the landscape in driving the uptake of low carbon and energy efficiency measures? If not, why not? Measuring and reporting on energy use and carbon emissions is the foundation for any organisation to understand where action can be taken and where savings are being realised. The business case for investment in low carbon and energy efficiency measures can only be justified if sufficient data and evidence exists and that will be obtained through reporting processes. 3 Should such reports require board level sign-off and should reported data be made publically available? Please give your reasons. It is common in many organisations that important issues have board or senior management sponsors. Having board level sign-off shows a firm commitment to continually reviewing the issue. However, which board this applies to should be considered carefully to achieve appropriate engagement; e.g. for multinational companies based in the UK, the board should be that of the Page 1 of 8 9 th November 2015

2 UK operating company rather than the group. Where organisations are large energy users and hence it is a significant cost, a high proportion of these organisations will have already engagement from the board or senior managers to track cost and implementation of reduction measures. Engagement may decrease as the significance of energy use/costs and carbon emissions to an organisation decreases. If organisations use only very small amounts of energy and hence energy costs are a very small proportion of costs, then board level sign-off can appear inappropriate. Again lessons should be learnt from the existing reporting schemes and further consideration should be given to minimum levels of energy use/cost or carbon emissions so that future schemes are proportionate in their aims. As discussed in [2], the main purpose of mandatory reporting would be to stimulate action within an organisation. The only information that needs to be made public is to confirm that reporting has been undertaken and that a verifiable audit trail exists to prove its integrity. Thereafter, publishing further information for a large cohort of organisations will introduce administrative complexity and create confusion in drawing comparisons due to the different sizes and types of energy use/ carbon emissions applicable across the organisations. If the Government s desire in publishing information is to hold organisations to account for their actions, there are a number of drivers already in existence which influence companies in their choice to disclose information via appropriate routes (discussed further in [5]). 4 Do you agree that government should develop a single reporting scheme requiring all ESOS participants (and potentially the public sector (see paragraphs ) to report regularly at board level? If so, what data should be included in such a report? The ESOS cohort of participants is a convenient starting point for identifying a population to undertake regular reporting of energy and carbon performance. However, participation in ESOS must not form the basis of accessing financial incentives due to competitive distortions, nor replace the reporting elements under CCAs which work very well as currently implemented. We look forward to the review of ESOS planned for 2016, and hope the following points will be considered if ESOS is adopted for additional purposes: An ESOS participant s structure can be complex; the ability to disaggregate any parts of the organisation is needed to prevent an increase in administrative complexity. An ESOS participant can consume zero energy use; such an organisation should not be required to report regularly or obtain board level sign off as it increases the reporting burden disproportionately. An ESOS participant or one of their subsidiary companies can consume very little energy use; such organisations should not be required to report regularly or obtain board level sign off as it increases the reporting burden disproportionately. SMEs or public sector bodies that are not included in the ESOS participant cohort could be large energy users (i.e. high proportion of their cost base is energy). Many of these companies are likely to already be reporting via CRC or a CCA. If participating in the single reporting framework is a precursor to accessing incentives or reliefs then such organisations should be able to report. If an organization has an existing, proven Energy Management System (e.g. ISO 50001) it should be deemed equivalent for reporting compliance, thereby reducing the administrative burden. The frequency of regular reporting energy and carbon data through CRC and CCAs is annual and this is good so that it can be integrated into normal business processes or existing reporting systems. It is sensible for this continue however we would not see value in adopting any other Page 2 of 8 9 th November 2015

3 aspects of ESOS (e.g. energy audits) to become annual. The data presented to the board level management should be appropriate and meaningful to that audience. These key decision makers will find cost information, trends on progress and a summary of actions or barriers most useful. 5 The government recognises the importance of ensuring market actors have access to transparent, reliable and comparable information to support financing and investment in energy efficiency and low carbon measures. How best can a streamlined report achieve this? To what extent does your response apply to other large companies (as defined in the Companies Act) that are not listed companies? Market actors can currently demand information from organisations to assess their performance in relation to energy, carbon, environment or sustainability. Similar to the comments in [4] about information to the board, we believe that market actors need to know where the risks and opportunities are and how they are being managed or exploited. As this information can be commercially sensitive, it is for the organisations themselves to decide how best to disseminate the information and there are many options already available; e.g. reporting into the Carbon Disclosure Project, publishing via corporate reports or websites, achieving relevant standards like ISO 50001, or Do you agree that moving to a single tax would simplify the tax system for business? Should we abolish the CRC and move towards a new tax based on the CCL? Please give reasons. Whilst the tax landscape simplification assists business, energy intensive businesses in the UK are subject to a range of domestic and EU energy-related taxes and regulations not faced by overseas competitors. The cumulative burden of these policies significantly undermines the international competitiveness of UK industry and poses a threat to the survival of a number of sectors. Reducing the burden would help level the playing field. CRC has become a tax for those that participate in it. For many organisations who already report into other schemes it has become an extra burden as it is another scheme to report into with differing coverage and reporting cycles. Abolishing the CRC would greatly simplify the energy/carbon reporting landscape. If the desire from Government is to achieve revenue neutrality increasing the CCL would seem an easy option to recoup the income generated by CRC. However, the populations affected by CRC and CCL differ greatly; CRC participants have been larger energy users whilst CCL is paid on all nondomestic energy. If CCL is increased such that CRC and CCL revenues are the same before and after the change, it is likely to create winners and losers. Whilst this is inevitable, consideration should be given to who needs protecting from cost increases (discussed later) and providing visibility of cost increases well in advance of their introduction. We would like to seek clarification on the retention of existing exemptions from CCL such as community heating, CHP, mineralogical and metallurgical processes as these have not been discussed. 7 How should a single tax be designed to improve its effectiveness in incentivising energy efficiency and carbon reduction? The most fundamental aspect of tax design is the value of the tax; there needs to a balance Page 3 of 8 9 th November 2015

4 between providing a strong enough financial incentive but not adding excessively to operating costs. For energy intensive industry sectors, energy efficiency is key to competitiveness and so provides the main driver for improved energy efficiency and therefore carbon reduction. Further aspects of tax design that could be considered include: Visibility the value of the tax paid over the year could be made more visible to reinforce the saving that could be achieved if energy use is reduced. This could be achieved by requiring energy suppliers to provide an annual statement on the total value of CCL the organisation has paid during the year (similar to the requirement under CRC for an annual statement which will not be required if CRC is abolished). Future rates the business case for investing in energy efficiency/carbon reductions can be strengthened by having stability in the tax levels. 8 Should all participants pay the same rates (before any incentives/reliefs are applied) or should the rates vary across different businesses? For example, do you think that smaller consumers and at risk Energy Intensive Industries (EIIs) should pay lower rates? It is difficult to justify that smaller and larger consumers of energy should pay different energy tax rates especially when they may be competitors. Introducing different rates will also inevitably introduce complexity when simplicity is desired. Incentives and reliefs should be used to protect or incentivise particular sectors. 9 Do we currently have the right balance between gas and electricity tax rates? What are the implications of rebalancing the tax rate ratio between electricity and gas? What is the right ratio between gas and electricity rates? Overall, there is a need for a more transparent and consistent price signal to drive more efficient decisions and market responses. Overlapping and inconsistent signals distort the market and undermine cost-effective achievement of environmental targets UK s gas prices are competitive within Europe and this should not be undermined. UK industrial electricity prices are fundamentally uncompetitive compared to the EU and other locations. This is mainly because of policy costs including the unilateral carbon price support tax. Increasing taxes on gas is not the solution as, to maintain competitiveness, policy related energy costs need to be levelled down where possible (not up). The primary objective of the CCL rates is to stimulate a reduction in energy use by the organisation consuming the energy. From the organisation s point of view, an ideal balance would be that the tax improved the business case of any gas or electricity project in the same proportion. However, as investment decisions have already been taken using the current balance of rates we urge that any re-balancing is phased in carefully to allow organisations an appropriate time to respond. Taking a longer term view, the intention to decarbonise the grid and electrify certain processes has been stated in a variety of reports. These objectives could be achieved through changes to the balance between gas and electricity tax rates over the longer term however we believe that energy price modelling will be needed to answer this. 10 Do you believe that the CCA scheme (or any new scheme giving a discount on the CCL or on any new tax based on the model of the CCL) eligibility should only focus on industries needing Page 4 of 8 9 th November 2015

5 & 11 protection from competitive disadvantage? If so, how should government determine which sectors are in need of protection? Do you believe that the CCA scheme (or new scheme) eligibility should focus only on providing protection to those EIIs exposed to international competition and at risk of carbon leakage? If so, how should the government assess which CCA sectors are at risk of carbon leakage? When CCAs were introduced in 2001, the eligibility criteria were based on the readily available environmental permitting regulations. This initial cohort represented a mix of sectors that were energy intensive, needed protection from competitive disadvantage and needed incentivising to improve energy efficiency. From 2005 onwards, activities not included in the regulations were granted a CCA if the sector could demonstrate that the activity was either very energy intensive (above 10%), or, energy intensive (3%) with a high degree of international competition (50% or more import penetration). Since CCAs were introduced, further definitions of energy intensiveness and carbon leakage have been introduced due to the impacts of EU ETS and the Carbon Price Floor. CCAs were originally designed to serve a dual purpose; to protect companies from the increase in costs that the introduction of the CCL brought about, and to incentivise investment in energy efficiency. Many sectors and companies with a CCA will confirm that the mechanism has been successful in both respects. CCAs have also led to the indirect but very welcome benefit of establishing a comprehensive dataset on sector performance. Such datasets have been well utilised by Government in a variety of studies to look at reduction potential and develop sector roadmaps. The criteria for CCL relief entitlement needs to be sector specific to reflect that different sectors are impacted by energy taxes in different ways. The relief entitlement should be assigned to sectors that are impacted negatively through energy taxes. This could be due to the: degree of international competition for a sector (hence higher energy costs prevent investment or result in activities being moved overseas to where costs are lower), proportion that energy costs represent of a company s turnover (hence if the company cannot pass through the cost then the capital available to invest becomes limited, or, if the company competes with other sectors that are entitled to a relief then they are put at a competitive disadvantage), significance of a sector in the supply chain of its customers where those customers suffer from a high degree of international competition (hence a mixture of the two bullets above occur). We have purposefully distinguished between energy intensity and international competition. Together they are more likely to result in carbon leakage but it does not necessary follow. A key priority should be to ensure that there should be no increase in the absolute CCL costs for energy intensive industries. During the CCA target negotiation discussions, the Government were particularly targeting the implementation of opportunities with much longer payback periods (i.e. 4 to 6 years). Many of these ensuing investment decisions have already been made on the basis of the CCA and the period it covers. Considering that implementing any changes to the current CCAs will take a number of years to consult upon and legislate, we strongly recommend that the current CCAs run their course so these investment decisions are not undermined or reversed. Page 5 of 8 9 th November 2015

6 12 Do you believe that the targets set by the current CCA scheme are effective at incentivising energy efficiency? Do you believe that the current CCA scheme is at least as effective, or more effective, at incentivising energy efficiency than if participants paid the full current rates of CCL? How could CCAs be improved? Are there alternative mechanisms that may be more effective? CCAs have provided welcome protection against the risk of carbon leakage and delivered a long term track record for significant CO2 reduction: 28.5 MtCO2 p.a by 2010 under the old CCAs (equivalent to and a half Drax power stations) and another 19 MtCO2 p.a by 2020 targeted - more than most other sectors of the economy. In target period 1 alone they ve contributed a saving of 6.2 million tonnes of CO2e. CCAs targets are assessed as challenging at the time they are set: negotiations are held in the context of DECC s independent assessment of what constituted challenging but achievable cost effective measures. Under both the preceding and current CCAs, target reviews are conducted every 4 years to ensure that they represent the current potential for savings. This response has already discussed many key features needed in a future reporting and tax regime; the design of current CCAs already has many of those features incorporated: CCAs deliver a regular reporting regime which requires senior management engagement. CCAs result in a sector specific dataset which would otherwise not exist. The financial value of a CCA to a business is threefold: (1) relief from the CCL, (2) exemption/relief from CRC, and (3) independently set targets to achieve and realise energy cost savings or pay an expensive buy-out. Although the time required to negotiate CCA targets can be high, the benefit is that the targets are highly bespoke and have been set through a rigorous and transparent process. The impact of not meeting CCA targets has become much more expensive with the introduction of the buy-out; approximately 6 times more expensive to retain the relief than the old CCAs. This has further improved the business case for taking action. CRC was introduced because the Government at the time believed that those large energy users not in a CCA needed to be motivated to report energy and be incentivised to implement energy reductions. The annual process of accounting for energy use and paying for CRC allowances promoted energy issues at board level. That is also true for CCAs. If CCAs did not exist, it is very likely that many CCA companies would not report annually, would not have a senior manager engaged in energy use, and would pay CCL as a monthly cost without giving it too much attention. Reflecting earlier comments, CCAs could be enhanced by: requiring further board level engagement such as a director signing off how much CCL discount has been received by the company. setting much longer term targets and accompanying escalating buy-out fees to give the certainty needed to aid the business case for larger investments. 13 Do you agree that incentives could help drive additional investment in energy efficiency and carbon reduction? Please explain why you agree or disagree. Organisations, public and private, need to establish a firm business case for any investment. Energy efficiency and carbon reduction projects compete with many other investment needs (e.g. relating to legislative compliance, the environment, safety, security, people, productivity improvements, quality of products/services, etc). Incentives provided through tax relief and other mechanisms improve the business case and therefore result in a higher level of implementation. As discussed previously, increasing the Page 6 of 8 9 th November 2015

7 visibility of the tax relief could further increase the uptake of measures within some organisations. It should be noted that for energy intensive industry sectors, energy efficiency is key to competitiveness, and so provides the main driver for improved energy efficiency and therefore carbon reduction. For those sectors involved in decarbonisation roadmaps, actions plans are yet to be developed and details of incentive schemes should be developed alongside this process. 14 What is the best mechanism to deliver incentives for investment in energy efficiency and carbon reduction (e.g. tax reliefs, supplier obligations, grants, funding based on competitive bidding)? Are different approaches needed for different types of business? If so, which approaches work for which business types? What approaches should be avoided? Where policymakers are implementing policies that impose a cost on the use of carbon, such a policy that ensures a transparent, consistent and predictable price of carbon across the economy will help drive the most efficient solutions and minimise market distortion. Incentive schemes need to be as simple as possible. The most simple: a pay as you go tax on its own, is the least likely to succeed as it would not be visible. Incentives must: improve the business case. The funding provided by the incentive will only be effective if it can either provide funds to invest that would otherwise not be available, or, reduce the payback or improve the return on investment. be guaranteed for a period of time that is relevant to that investment. Businesses have become very wary of Government incentives recently since the sudden removal/decrease in renewables incentives. There must be a clear commitment to maintain the incentive for a number of years which facilitate a sound business case for investment. Tax reliefs can be very effective if designed well. CCAs are a good example; they achieve higher levels of energy management and improve the business case for investment. Projects requiring significant capital expenditure or have much longer paybacks can still remain on hold due to the business case not yet being viable. Incentives are needed to bring forward and implement these opportunities. Competitive bidding can be seen as an overly complicated approach for organisations to take part in and has an inherent risk that the upfront effort may not even yield any funding. As stated earlier, any incentive mechanism needs to provide certainty around the applicability/availability of the incentive so that investment decisions are not later undermined. 15 What impact would moving to a single tax have on the public sector and charities? No comment 16 How should the merged tax be designed to improve its effectiveness in driving energy and carbon savings from the public sector and charities? No comment Page 7 of 8 9 th November 2015

8 17 Should a new reporting framework also require reporting by the public sector? Public sector organisations use energy like any other commercial organisation and operate within financial budgets like any other commercial organisation. Managing energy use is no less of an issue to the public sector than to a private organisation. It would be good if public sector organisations are expected to report and reduce their energy use/carbon emissions in the same way that the Government expects private sector organisations to. Page 8 of 8 9 th November 2015

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