The end of the Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme (CRC)
The final reporting period for the CRC scheme concluded in March 2019. Here we reflect on its effectiveness since it began in April 2010.
The final reporting period for the Carbon Reduction Commitment Scheme (CRC) concluded in March this year. Qualifying companies now only have to manage the final elements of the scheme: ensuring they have purchased and surrendered sufficient allowances to finalise Phase 2 reporting.
The CRC scheme ran for eight years, from April 2010 to March 2019. It covered approximately 10% of the UK’s carbon emissions, and raised roughly £790 million annually for the exchequer.
Qualification criteria for CRC Phase 2 was determined as organisations with at least one half-hourly meter using 6,000 megawatt hours or more of qualifying electricity. This was a simpler method of working out relevant organisations and was implemented following Phase 1 feedback that the system was too complex. The seemingly sensible criteria did a good job of identifying significant energy consumers with a test that was simple.
An issue arose however with qualification being considered only in the period April 2012 to March 2013, and then lasting for all subsequent years in the phase. As time went on, there was an increase in companies who qualified, but had subsequently sold off the (usually industrial) sites that made them qualify for the scheme. This left comparatively low energy users stuck in a scheme for which they were no longer suitable. The qualification criteria became less effective over time. We learnt that rolling qualification criteria for schemes helps to avoid this problem and keep qualifying members relevant.
The impact of ‘greening the grid’
The CRC scheme also changed significantly due to the “greening of the grid”. The government’s electricity conversion factors, which denote the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions associated with consuming a fixed amount of electricity, fell approximately 15% year on year over the last three years of the scheme.
This meant that in three years the number of allowances required to cover a fixed amount of electricity, halved. Some members of the scheme were caught out by this, and held a large number of prepaid allowances which were no longer needed due to the drop in conversion factors that was not forecast. This also had a big impact on the total tax revenue generated by CRC, and if the scheme were to continue, we would expect this to be addressed in a review. We learnt that if part of a carbon scheme’s purpose is to raise tax, then there are factors that can unexpectedly influence this.
The future of compliance
Now the CRC scheme is closed, we see a new future opening for carbon compliance. The tax-raising component of CRC has been incorporated into the Climate Change Levy as an increased flat rate across business energy bills in the UK for firms who pay 20% VAT. This is charged per kWh of energy, and so tax revenues are easier to forecast and less likely to change. However, this has shifted the tax burden initially placed on high emitters to being evenly spread across a wider group of energy bills.
The reporting side of CRC has been followed by the new Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) scheme. This has a larger footprint of approximately 11,000 qualifying firms, and the new qualifying criteria is attached to accounting standards which is both simple and applicable year on year. We welcome the increased attention on emissions that will be generated by the SECR scheme.
Talk to the EIC team
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