The UK launched its long-awaited strategy to hit net zero emissions by 2050 with a raft of measures and ambitions – many of them previously announced – that the nation’s government claimed add up to a world-leading recipe for decarbonisation.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will host the COP26 climate summit later this month, said the 368-page net zero strategy would enable the UK to make “historic transitions” across its economy, underpin 440,000 jobs by 2030 and unlock £90bn ($124bn) of private investment.
The strategy – which includes a recently-announced pledge for power sector net zero as soon as 2035 – leaves unchanged headline targets for 40GW of offshore wind power by 2030 and 1GW of floating wind, despite suggestions that the latter could increase.
The goal of a “fully decarbonised power sector, subject to security of supply” within 15 years, makes it clear that nuclear and carbon capture and storage will play significant roles in the UK system alongside “abundant, cheap British renewables”.
Britain will secure a final investment decision on a new large-scale nuclear plant by 2024 and look at options for small modular nuclear reactors such as those being proposed by Rolls-Royce, backed by a new £120m Future Nuclear Enabling Fund.
Some analysts have said nuclear’s stock has risen with the UK government in recent weeks, as a power source that is both zero-carbon and not subject to the supply disruptions of gas or variability of renewables, both of which have been under the spotlight during a period of crisis in the British energy system.
The net zero plan also promises, a focus on flexible energy storage, more onshore renewables – without setting a specific goal, as some had urged – and “a new approach to onshore and offshore electricity networks to incorporate new low carbon generation and demand in the most efficient manner that takes account of the needs of local communities like those in East Anglia”.
The government does commit to a review of the frequency of UK contract for difference auctions, which the renewables sector has urged is bumped up to an annual basis from every two years now.
Other key elements of the plan include:
- Plans to spur hydrogen production investment through a new Hydrogen Revenue Support scheme, which will provide contracts designed to back up to 250MW of electrolyser capacity in 2023, with a further award in 2024. The strategy is underpinned by a previously announced target for 5GW of total hydrogen capacity under the UK’s twin-track approach that includes roles for both green hydrogen from electrolysis and the blue variety made using abated gas with carbon capture and storage. Emissions from oil and gas to halve by the end of the decade.
- £450m of subsidies for households to install electric heat pumps, with no new gas boilers sold after 2035. A "rebalancing of policy costs from electricity bills to gas bills this decade". A 'Hydrogen Village trial' but no decision on the role of hydrogen in the heating system until as late as 2026.
- A further £620m for zero emission vehicle grants and EV Infrastructure, as the UK pursues its goal to end all sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
The UK also on Tuesday burnished its credential as a green pioneer by announcing a £400m partnership with Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates to support rapid scale-up of new technologies, including green hydrogen, long-term energy storage, direct-air capture of CO2 and sustainable aviation fuel.
UK energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng claimed: “There is a global race to develop new green technology, kick-start new industries and attract private investment. The countries that capture the benefits of this global green industrial revolution will enjoy unrivalled growth and prosperity for decades to come – and it’s our job to ensure the UK is fighting fit.
“Today’s plan will not only unlock billions of pounds of investment to boost the UK’s competitive advantage in green technologies, but will create thousands of jobs in new, future-proof industries – clearly demonstrating that going green and economic growth go hand in hand.”
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