Energy efficiency targets for farming diluted

Horticulture and poultry farmers have been given a lower energy efficiency improvement target following lobbying by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

Earlier this year, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) said that its Climate Change Agreement (CCA) scheme, under which businesses within 53 industrial sectors can claim discounts against the Climate Change Levy (CCL) in return for meeting targets to reduce energy and/or carbon, would be extended to 2027.

The current scheme targets ended on 31 December 2022, giving businesses who complied with the targets reduced rates of the CCL until 31 March 2025. The new targets cover 1 January 2024 to 31 December 2024, with the reduced rate of CCL available until 31 March 2027.

DESNZ initially proposed a 40.9% energy efficiency improvement target for horticulture, and a 12% target for poultry. According to the department, the new targets took into account improvements made in the previous target period, and whether that trajectory could be maintained or exceeded. 

However, the NFU called the original targets proposed “challenging”, and said that they did not accurately reflect the energy efficiency of participating businesses.

“The last target period was marked by an unexpected surge in energy prices, which forced businesses across the UK to adopt drastic measures to their usual operations,” it said.

DESNZ has agreed to extend the CCA scheme by two years until March 2027, with revised reduction targets of 13% for horticulture, and 10% for poultry.

NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said: “The revision of these targets is a win for collaboration and the commitment to sustainable energy practices, and they are now fair and realistic for the horticulture and poultry businesses involved in the scheme.”

He added that while the NFU wants to see the CCA scheme continued long-term, it also wants any future replacement scheme to cover farmers and growers outside the current target sectors.

A spokesperson for DESNZ said: “Revisions to initial targets have always been part of its design to ensure they remain stretching, while reflecting any unforeseen challenges.

“We extended the scheme earlier this year to help a range of businesses with their energy costs at a time of increasing pressures,” he added.

Lydia Collas, senior policy analyst at the Green Alliance, said: “Diluting energy efficiency targets for horticulture will do little to help growers who are struggling to turn a profit.

“Some didn’t plant last year because energy prices were so high that they knew they wouldn’t recover costs. With less support to cut energy use, their costs will stay high, as will their emissions. This will undermine the competitiveness of UK horticulture as a whole and incentivise imports,” she said. 

Earlier this month, ENDS reported how the NFU had lobbied DEFRA to lower its international air quality targets, with campaigners describing it as evidence of the “cosy and effectively corrupt” relationship between the regulator and the regulated.