A Whitehall secret – let’s start spreading the news

2nd Nov 2020


Buried in the bowels of Whitehall are a number of committees, advisory bodies, special councils, all with the remit of helping the government machine function.

We may have heard of them, such as SAGE, when they get an occasional public airing, but rarely is their work the focus of attention. Their function is to provide advice, but official advice. They are not a lobby group; their role is not to become political but they play an important in shaping the direction of policy.

So let’s examine one of Whitehall’s best kept secrets, the Council for Science and Technology. According to the Government’s own website, “The Council for Science and Technology (CST) advises the Prime Minister on science and technology policy issues across government. The council is supported by a secretariat in the Government Office for Science”. One of the joint Chair’s is Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, yes the one from the television.

This is a collection of experts. What they say should matter and it does. When they write a letter it doesn’t go to the local paper, or a partisan website, it goes to Ministers. I hope you’ve got my drift. If so, let me refer to the letter they wrote on 23 September to the Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, copied to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Secretary, Permanent Secretaries – I can assure you it appeared in Ministerial red boxes across Whitehall. It isn’t a secret, it is published on the Government website, here is the link: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/925721/cst-advice-net-zero-energy-challenges-letter-200923.pdf

Few people have drawn attention to the content – I’ll leave you to ask why?

So here are a few snippets from the letter I thought you should see, and share. Let’s start with a general one:

Given that 85% of UK dwellings are connected to the gas infrastructure , converting the existing gas network to hydrogen for use with home boilers could be a viable solution worth exploring and can be done so in parallel with other solutions such as heat pumps or district networks.”

My personal favourite is:

The two key sectors which appear to have the strongest potential for hydrogen application are ‘point to point’ road transport (e.g. buses, trucks) and home heating.”

I took the liberty of drawing the attention of the Climate Change Committee to the existence of this advice, after all, consistency of messages will help the public deliver Net Zero. Let’s start spreading the news.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO

Mike Foster

EUA's Chief Executive


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