Plans to scale up affordable, clean, homegrown power and build green industries in Britain have been unveiled by the UK Government – which they say will boost the country’s energy security and independence, reducing household bills for the long term and maintaining a world-leading position in achieving net zero.
However, the ‘Energy Security Announcement’ has been met with a muted response from experts and critics, who say that it does not go anywhere near as far as it should in positioning the UK’s energy strategy on the right track towards net-zero.
Overreliance on carbon capture and storage (CCUS), a lack of a comprehensive programme of home insulation, and failing to lift the ban on new onshore wind turbines in England are all areas that have been highlighted as reasons why the Government has wasted an opportunity to enact meaningful change to ensure the UK meets its Net Zero goals.
In response to the Energy Security announcement, Cara Jenkinson, cities manager at climate solutions charity Ashden, said: “Unfortunately the government’s so-called Energy Security Day proposed measures do little to increase our energy security. It is the irony of ironies that these announcements – tellingly rebranded from their original title of ‘Green Day’ – actually further jeopardise chances of the UK meeting our 1.5 degrees climate commitment.
“The UK is particularly exposed to high energy prices because of our housing stock which literally leaks expensive fossil fuel energy out of walls, roofs and windows, and the piecemeal measures that have been announced fail to fix this. This was a chance to reset policy on energy efficiency but instead the government is supporting further oil and gas exploration and committing £20 billion to technologies such as carbon capture and storage which are unproven at scale.
“£20 billion could retrofit millions of homes and provide the government and society with huge quick wins – tackling the energy, climate and cost of living crises at the same time. Unfortunately, the expected £1 billion for the ECO+ scheme – unconvincingly branded the Great British Insulation scheme and already announced in November is all padding and no substance. The government have also missed a big economic opportunity – to create 200,000 new jobs to make our homes more energy efficient.
“We welcome the proposed measures to boost the rollout of heat pumps, but unless we insulate first, many people will be left with high energy bills – a crucial detail that has been ignored by government.
“We need a bold new Net Zero strategy now that takes the climate emergency seriously and weans the UK off our addiction to gas and oil. That means long term policy certainty on energy efficiency and investment in the green construction skills needed to insulate our homes.”
However, the news was welcomed by Guy Newey, CEO at Energy Systems Catapult.
“The Government set out important progress on CCUS, small modular reactors, and hydrogen; some of the key innovative technologies our analysis finds are essential building blocks for a future Net Zero energy system. These measures will be important for attracting investment and new companies into the sector and to the UK,” said Newey.
“New steps forward on enabling measures such as planning reform and a commitment to an enhanced role for the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) are also important and urgent. We need to make it as easy as possible to deploy low carbon technologies and supporting infrastructure. And we need strong incentives for people and businesses across the economy to take low carbon options – we know where strong incentives are in place, they have helped drive coal off the electricity system and reduced waste going to landfill. In other areas, more action is needed – so plans to rebalance electricity and gas prices is a major step forward, so we can stop subsidising pollution and reward customers who make the switch to clean energy.
“The challenge for Government going forward is to set out a coherent approach for how it is going to move away from technology-specific subsidies and create the market environment where a wide range of technologies can compete to provide a flexible, Net Zero economy that, crucially, holds the hands of consumers – including vulnerable consumers – through the journey.
“To move to a Net Zero economy, we will need to go even further than the plans announced today. The Government needs to commit sooner rather than later to ambitious electricity market reform, so it does not lose its place as a global centre for innovators in demand-side flexibility. And it needs to empower local areas to become essential partners helping communities navigate to a Net Zero future.”