REA Response to HM Treasury Reforming the Business Energy Efficiency Tax Landscape

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1 REA Response to HM Treasury Reforming the Business Energy Efficiency Tax Landscape The Renewable Energy Association (REA) is pleased to submit this response to the above inquiry. The REA represents a wide variety of organisations, including generators, project developers, fuel and power suppliers, investors, equipment producers and service providers. Members range in size from major multinationals to sole traders. There are around 750 corporate members of the REA, making it the largest renewable energy trade association in the UK and the only body to cover all forms of energy. It should therefore be noted that our member s primary interest in this consultation is to do with how reforms to the Business Tax Landscape could help incentivise the deployment of renewable technologies. Consultation Response 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. We appreciate that this is a high level consultation, gathering initial thoughts and ideas. However, it is worth stating from the start that such streamlining of policies must be done carefully to ensure that it does not constitute a watering down of the requirements, or incentives, which have driven businesses to become more engaged with their energy consumption to date. If reporting mechanisms, or tax requirements, are significantly weakened as a result of this consolidation it is likely businesses will fail to engage effectively and will view the tax as just another administrative cost, rather than an impetus for action. Similarly, whichever proposals are brought forward as a result of this consultation, they must be backed by clear long term and broad political support. The sudden scrapping of renewables exemption from the Climate Change Levy, and the unexpected exclusion of community energy schemes from the enterprise tax relief mechanisms (EIS, SEIS and SITR) has greatly damaged investor confidence. In some cases the scrapping of these policies have caused developers to completely abandon viable projects and has discouraged them to invest in further low carbon energy and energy efficiency measures. Organisations will be understandably cautious of any new tax mechanism and must be appropriately reassured that the government is committed to its long term implementation. Furthermore, as is recognised within the consultation paper, more must be done to encourage energy saving beyond just the power sector. Emerging technologies such as renewable heat, renewable transport fuels and green gas should also be encouraged through tax incentives and business reporting requirements, recognising their potential to deliver energy and carbon savings. In order to do this in a cost effective manner, we encourage Treasury to focus on what low carbon tax incentives could also be built into the existing business tax environment. Tax incentives like Enhanced Capital Allowances and relief from Business Rates are easily 25 Eccleston Place Tel: Victoria, London SW1 9NF

2 understood by finance managers and could provide a fertile opportunity for encouraging engagement in energy efficiency and onsite renewables while not acting as a direct subsidy. We provide further details on what could potentially be achieved in this area later on within our consultation response. With the above in mind, it is worth noting that an optimum tax and reporting regime will require businesses to actively engage with their greenhouse gas emissions through effective monitoring, while also providing a strong price signal to encourage them to use cleaner energy sources and become more energy efficient. It is fair to say that the myriad of existing energy taxes and reporting requirements which include the Climate Change Levy (CCL), Climate Change Agreements (CCA), The Energy Savings Opportunity Savings Scheme (ESOS) and the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), amongst others, have created significant confusion. While they have had many positive impacts they have also arguably focused much of the business community s attention on compliance rather than a proactive engagement with renewable energy generation or the adoption of energy efficiency measures. Therefore, overall we agree that, if done correctly, a single tax scheme and reporting mechanism could give businesses greater transparency on the level and costs of their energy use which should drive engagement and investment in developing low carbon industries. 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? 3. Should such reports require board level sign-off and should reported data be made publicly available? Please give your reasons. 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? 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? Mandatory reporting remains an effective method for ensuring business engagement and maintaining a focus on energy efficient practices. Although policies such as ESOS and CRC have been criticised for their complexity and have had inconsistent impacts across market participants, they have ensured energy efficiency and carbon reduction remain firmly on boardroom agendas, especially in Energy Intensive Industries. This means that energy consumption and efficiency has been considered alongside longer term business planning and investment strategies. Similarly, transparency and public access to a business s performance helps to drive competition between market participants. Public access ensures companies are conscious of public examination and are aware of the damage that could be done to their brand if they are seen to be under performing. It is hoped that a more uniform reporting mechanism will help make information easier to access, more transparent, and Page 2 of 8

3 easier to compare for both the public and other market participants, as well as make best case practices more evident for others to follow. 6. 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. 7. How should a single tax be designed to improve its effectiveness in incentivising energy efficiency and carbon reduction? 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? We support the move to a more streamlined taxation mechanism that is similar to that of the Climate Change Levy, as was in operation before the removal of Levy Exemption Certificates (LECs) for renewable generation. We agree that the removal of the CRC would reduce the administrative burden, as well as improve the cash flow arrangements of businesses that will no longer be required to make an annual one-off payment to meet their CRC obligation. Rather the CCL allows for the charge to be placed on the energy suppliers who already have the systems and processes in place to charge the tax through energy bills and the trading desks to allow for the effective facilitation of a trading market on exemption certificates. A key benefit of the CCL model has been the ability to leverage tax relief mechanisms through a trading market. Businesses sought out renewable suppliers in order to be exempt from the CCL tax. This helped drive demand for renewable sourced energy. To meet this demand suppliers had to prove their supply was renewable through the purchasing of LECs, which was agreed with the renewable generator within their Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Therefore the CCL exemptions benefited business consumers while also creating an important revenue stream for renewable generation, without being a direct subsidy, encouraging investor confidence and investment in new projects. This also translated into some businesses investing in their own onsite renewable projects, recognising the benefits of increasing energy efficiency and meeting their own onsite demand. This market mechanism did not operate under the CRC which effectively encouraged emission reduction without directly increasing demand for renewables. However, the recent exclusion of LECs for renewable generation has meant this market mechanism has been undermined and made the CCL a generic tax on all energy usage. In order to encourage low carbon generation, any future tax which is based around the CCL model, must take full advantage of its potential for facilitating growth in the low carbon economy through the trading of exemption certificates. This includes exemptions being expanded across all energy sectors, including heat, transport and power, so that all renewable technologies can be driven forward. For example, there is a strong case for the extension of LECs to support the growth of the anaerobic digestion (AD) biomethane to grid industry. Once an AD facility injects renewable gas into the grid it is currently undistinguished from conventional fossil gas supplies. As such biomethane, despite its green credentials, has never been definitively exempt from CCL charges. As the industry is currently in its infancy, there is a strong case for allowing LECs to be applied to biomethane production in order to incentivise investment and encourage industry growth. If such a system were introduced there would be an additional 0.193p/kWh value (current CCL charge on gas in 2015/2016) to share between the biomethane injector, supplier and consumer. This is an approximate additional benefit Page 3 of 8

4 of 100k to the 30+ biomethane gas schemes anticipated to be in operation in It also has the potential to bring additional benefits to local councils by creating demand for biowaste, reducing the amount being sent to landfill. With industry projections of around 2TWh of gas injection to grid in 2015, this equates to a modest annual cost to the exchequer of 3.86 million for the development of this reliable and low carbon energy source. Furthermore the costs of introducing such a scheme are expected to be low with the industry already having paid for the development of the Green Gas Certification Scheme 1 (GGCS), which could form the foundation of the exemption criteria. If similar models could be expanded to all emerging low carbon technologies it would greatly help to decarbonise the energy we consume, while also significantly help improve the energy security in the UK. 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? There is a need to re-evaluate the price differential between gas and electricity. A less piece meal approach to carbon pricing, with a more uniform application of the carbon price across sectors, could reduce barriers to entry for some emerging technologies. For example, Biomass can currently be more expensive than mains or LPG gas, creating a market where it is more cost effective to use a fossil fuel rather than produce renewable heat. However, it is recognised that this is a longer term solution that will require a considerable amount of further research, as has been performed by organisations such as the Carbon Trust, and development to ensure all low carbon technologies are able to benefit. 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 protection from competitive disadvantage? If so, how should government determine which sectors are in need of protection? 11. 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? 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? We do not have sufficient experience of the CCA scheme in order to comment on this area of the consultation. However we recognise the benefits to the economy that are made by protecting Energy Intensive Industries from particularly high taxes to ensure they remain internationally competitive. 13. Do you believe that incentives could help drive additional investment in energy efficiency and carbon reduction? Please explain your reasons. 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 1 For more information on the Green Gas Certification Scheme visit Page 4 of 8

5 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? Since the election in May 2015 the government have made significant energy policy interventions that have dramatically cut subsidy and regulatory support for low carbon energy and energy efficiency measures. This overhaul of energy policy has been done with such speed and severity that it has greatly undermined energy sector investor confidence in the UK. It is feared that this will also leave a lasting legacy of mistrust in future strategies, as policy risk becomes a major barrier to investor engagement and will increase the cost of capital. DECC and HM Treasury must now act quickly, setting out a new long term, stable and consistent national energy policy in order to mitigate these impacts and ensure the continued growth of the low carbon and energy efficiency industries. With this in mind, and recognising that value for money remains the key consideration, we propose the following tax support incentives which lie outside of the Levy Control Framework. They are built around the broader business tax environment and are mechanisms which are well understood by finance managers. It is hoped that some of these ideas could be implemented in order to create a good business case for engagement in the low carbon and energy efficiency industries, if further direct subsidies are no longer to be an option for some technologies. Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA) and Tax Relief The proposed cuts to the Feed-in Tariff following DECC s Review in October 2015 has left developers fearing the introduction of unrealistically low tariffs, a rapid degression mechanism and very low deployment caps. Within the REA s response to the FiT review 2 we recognised that as grid parity approaches, and tariffs become no more than a couple of pence, the FiT may no longer be the most appropriate form of support for commercial scale solar energy projects. However, if this is to be the case, then it is appropriate that the focus is moved away from subsidies to tax incentives, in order to ensure investors continue to be able to get an adequate return on their investment. If successful, such mechanisms could be a model for other technologies as their costs also fall to a level that could make them subsidy free in the future. As such, we suggest Treasury re-visits the potential for providing support through Enhance Capital Allowances (ECAs) and tax relief through the different forms of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). Furthermore, a more general Corporation Tax relief, for those installing renewable technologies may also constitute a simple incentive to encourage investment within the low carbon industries. While some renewable technologies already benefit from ECAs, it may now be appropriate to extend these benefits to technologies that had previously been excluded due to receiving subsidies elsewhere. As such there is particular potential for supporting commercial solar and new energy storage, amongst other renewable technologies, if they are no longer going to benefit from direct revenue support through the FiTs. This could apply to new generation projects and has the advantage of providing a one-off upfront benefit rather than an ongoing liability for Government over years. Similarly, the cost of such support would also automatically reduce in real terms as system prices continue to fall; reducing the risk of overcompensation in the future. Initial modelling by KPMG, done in advance of our FiT Review response, indicates a benefit of 1.3p/kWh for commercial solar rooftop projects and around 0.6p/kWh for ground-mounted solar when considered over an 2 The REA s Response to the DECC FiT Review is available here: Page 5 of 8

6 equivalent 20 year period (The modelling behind these calculations is available on request). If extended in their current form, ECA s would at least provide an attractive headline for investors and developers, bringing the tax relief on their asset purchase forward to their first year. It is however noted that ECA s would have an even greater impact if their value could be higher than the related renewable technology asset purchase cost (e.g. 150% of its cost) as has happened with allowances in the past. This would provide a valuable incentive to both developers and investors in the absence of direct subsidy. Similarly, EIS relief has the potential to help facilitate investments in all emerging renewable technologies and operates well within straight forward PPA business models. Investors will be able to see how their returns could be enhanced beyond the sale of a project s generation. If the FiT or similar revenue type incentives are no longer available, as is being unfavourably signalled by recent policy proposals, then fears of double subsides should no longer be considered applicable and there are reasonable grounds for providing support through enterprise tax relief mechanisms. The recent amendment to the Finance Bill, to exclude community projects from the Enterprise Investment Scheme, Social Enterprise Investment Scheme and the future Social Investment Tax Relief mechanism has been another serious blow to investor confidence, as well as serving to highlight the potential instability of future policies. This tax relief provided a valuable opportunity to offer investors the potential for high returns despite the risky nature of community schemes in comparison with purely commercial projects. It is our understanding that community projects that operate subsidy-free will still be able to benefit from EIS or SITR support. However this needs to be made clearer within the legislation guidance and expanded to all commercial projects investing in emerging technologies. The REA would also support the government in tightening rules in order to bring any misuse of these schemes to an end to promote value for money, which would be more effective than a blanket withdrawal of support. A further form of enterprise based support could also be achieved through the promotion and extension of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme for low carbon projects. Here the government underwrites a proportion of bank loans to qualifying businesses which would normally lack adequate security. This would greatly increase investor confidence and stimulate banks into lending to fund renewable projects. In a market with less direct subsidy support we believe ECAs and tax relief through EIS or corporation tax could provide a cost effective alternative for encouraging commercial investment in onsite renewable and energy efficient technologies. Furthermore, they have the potential to have the costs offset by driving commercial deployment of renewable technologies, which in turn results in business development and job creation, which will deliver further opportunities for collecting tax revenue. Local authorities have the potential to develop regional Investment through planning policy and using newly devolved powers to provide tax relief to businesses actively lowering emissions. There is also significant potential for local authorities to now drive carbon savings and encourage investment in the low carbon economy at the regional level. Page 6 of 8

7 Firstly, the Merton Rule should be expanded across the country. More councils should be incentivised to use this rule, which allows them to set more stringent sustainability standards for new developments. The further use of this could drive take up of on-site renewables, which is especially important in the light of the changes to the Zero Carbon Homes policy, which has been delayed. Competition between local authorities in driving down emissions should also help reduce costs as best practices are highlighted on a national scale. Secondly, local authorities may also consider, and could be encouraged, to provide Business Rate relief for companies taking advantage of on-site renewables or energy efficiency measures. Now that the mechanism has been devolved to local councils, the Valuation Office (VO) potentially need not be involved, as a discount to the VO s rates could be applied at the time of charge by the local authorities. Alternatively, similar tax relief on business rates could be applied to developers and generators building standalone renewable projects, rather than businesses operating renewables on-site as part of their operations. Such incentives could further benefit local authorities as the development of small power generators or district heat networks will all contribute to the councils own low climate change targets. Such tax relief could also be extended to the council tax for domestic properties. Local authorities could apply a discount to council tax rates for households that are registered on Ofgem s database for properties with renewables installed or who have had energy efficiency measures installed. The discount could be sized and applied over a differing number of years per technology or installation size as appropriate following consultation. This would further encourage deployment of either onsite generation or renewable heat across the domestic sector. It is however recognised that, at this time, local authorities are particularly restricted by budgetary constraints, and it may not be easy for them to apply reliefs to business rates or council tax. The REA are currently working with the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), an organisation which helps local authorities manage energy, in order to discuss what may be realistic models for encouraging low carbon development within local authorities, whether through regulation or tax incentives. Incentivising projects that provide grid balancing benefits. Renewable projects which reduce balancing system costs by solving intermittency problems could also be incentivised by ensuring that these grid benefits are appropriately compensated. Two models are suggested here. Firstly, hybrid renewable projects which build in energy storage technologies could feed into the grid during periods of high demand, while storing excess energy generation in periods of low demand. Secondly, hybrid renewable projects which allow for dispatchable base load generation, for example a project that Involves AD generation or combines solar and wind projects on one grid connection in order to mitigate variable supply profiles. Both these models could drive the deployment of energy storage or more innovative connection agreements while reducing the balancing costs associated with variable renewable output. Page 7 of 8

8 Incentivising energy efficiency and renewable heat through tax relief on property tax regimes A final form of tax relief to encourage installation of energy efficiency and renewable heat solutions could be achieved by adjusting property purchase taxes based on the Energy Performance Certificate ratings, as well as providing some form of rebate for energy efficiency improvements made shortly after the purchase have been instigated. Such a relief would encourage the installation of energy efficiency measures and renewable heat sources as properties are sold and brought in the market, helping to improve the energy efficiency of the housing stock of in the UK. 15 What impact would moving to a single tax have on the public sector and charities? 16 How should the merged tax be designed to improve its effectiveness in driving energy and carbon savings from the public sector and charities? 17 Should a new reporting framework also require reporting by the public sector? We have insufficient experience of public sector energy efficiency mechanisms with which to answer this question, but note the large contribution such organisations could make to reducing emissions and deploying low carbon technologies. 9 th November 2015 Page 8 of 8

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