Whitehall's Energy White Paper signals a boost for green economy
After a long wait, the UK government released its Energy White Paper on December 14th. It follows the 10-point plan announced by the Prime Minister in November which Boris Johnson said “would lead to a green industrial revolution” in the UK. The white paper – Powering our Net Zero Future – sets out how the government plans to transform its power and heating systems to help meet the legally binding net-zero emissions by 2050 target.
Although much of the report rehashes previously delivered commitments, there was a relatively positive response from the green economy on government initiatives to see the UK generate “overwhelmingly decarbonised power” in the 2030s with emission-free electricity by 2050.
After much speculation about the future for nuclear energy, the white paper states that the government aims to enable investment in at least one new nuclear power station during its term in office. It will also enter negotiations with EDF, the energy company running the Sizewell plant, about long term plans for Sizewell C in Suffolk.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been given priority and incorporated into the government’s wider agenda for a “levelling up” across the country. Clusters will be created across the country with carbon capture technologies introduced at each. The North East and North West figure prominently in this plan and the government will hope to alleviate some of the economic damage incurred by these regions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Having already committed to eliminating coal from the electricity mix by 2025, the white paper states that the government is now considering doing so by 2024. To assist people whose energy supplies are powered by fossil fuels, the white paper commits to funding a transition to cleaner energy. Owners of energy inefficient housing will also be offered grants to improve their properties and the Green Homes Grant scheme will be extended by a year.
The government also intend to ensure that fossil fuel producers are encouraged to make the transition to low carbon power. Doing so would minimise the loss of jobs in the oil and gas industries and help the regions most affected by closures and downsizing of oil and gas companies. It is estimated that more than 200,000 jobs could be created in the North Sea energy sector by a transition to low carbon power.
Plans to recalibrate the energy mix by reducing the reliance on fossil fuels sees green hydrogen, solar power and offshore wind assume a more prominent position.
All in all, the Energy White Paper indicates a government focussed on meeting their net zero commitments. With the UK-hosted Cop26 climate summit taking place in December 2021, they cannot afford any slippage.