Advisors recommend decisive action and new energy policies to enable progress toward net zero
Energy and environmental advisors believe the government must introduce new ambitious energy policies before the next general election. This includes eliminating barriers to planning permissions and challenges with the national electricity grid to enable wind farm development and other renewable energy required to achieve our net zero goals.
Chris Stark, the chief exec of the committee on climate change, believes action must happen now and not wait until the next general election to launch a new ambitious policy. Stark explained that the planning legislation requires restructuring to enable progress with renewable energy development, especially onshore wind development. Stark urged the government to take decisive action, suggesting there was an opportunity before ministers announce how they intend to achieve UK’s climate targets to highlight to the investor community that the UK is responding correctly to the climate crisis and has the necessary plans in place.
Without a clear and structured approach, the UK could miss critical investment opportunities as other nations (China, the US and the EU) have been preparing plans for green technology. The EU has plans to reach its net zero goals by ramping up plans for green technology in the region, while the US is enhancing green industries via the Inflation Reduction Act.
According to a recent report by the CCC, the government’s goal of decarbonising the UK electricity generation by 2035, required to reach the long-term goals of net zero by 2050, is achievable but requires significant changes. Stark believes we must focus on creating the necessary policies to enable changes at the pace and the necessary scale.
The CCC discovered that a small volume of gas-fired power, equating to 2% of national electricity generation would be required after 2035. This will ensure the security of energy supplies in times of ‘wind drought’ when wind farms fail to produce sufficient electricity.
As the UK progresses toward cleaner electric vehicles and heat pumps, electricity demand will inevitably rise, potentially by as much as 50% by 2035. Along with new wind farms, solar power and nuclear facilities, the UK will need significantly more capacity to store electricity. This could take the form of hydrogen and large batteries, which can store energy for later periods. The CCC believes work on hydrogen sites should commence now rather than waiting another year. The report also questioned the viability of burning trees in power stations, calling for power plans using wood fitted with carbon capture and storage technology (CCS).
The report included a series of recommendations, including the delivery of a new energy infrastructure group, managed by a minister taking responsibility for decarbonising power; new funding to enable hydrogen power projects to be operational by 2030; ensuring new gas power plants are prepared for CCS or hydrogen and to focus on CCS technology, including measures for transporting carbon dioxide.
Jess Ralston, the head of energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think tank explains that there is a significant investment opportunity in clean and cheap electricity systems that aren't influenced by international gas markets, but the government requires a clear plan to appeal to investors.
Caroline Lucas, green party MP explains that the latest report highlights that energy security will require embracing plentiful and affordable renewables to reduce energy bills and cut carbon emissions. Lucas highlights that current government policies, however, require reformation and enable quicker action with planning and delivery.