Government plots path to cleaner energy system in Energy White Paper

The government has published its long-awaited Energy White Paper, outlining its plans to create a clean energy system, support green jobs and keep bills affordable.

The paper, published on 14 December, builds on the Prime Minister’s recent 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. The measures it sets out could cut emissions by 230MtCO2e in power, industry and buildings, along with savings in transport, while supporting 220,000 jobs per year by 2030. These include long-term roles in major infrastructure projects for power generation, carbon capture storage (CCS) and hydrogen, as well as a major programme of retrofitting homes for energy efficiency and clean heat.

The paper outlines commitments across three key areas, beginning with the transformation of energy, with measures to build a cleaner, greener future for the UK. This involves the previously stated ambition of 40GW of offshore wind by 2030, alongside the expansion of other low cost renewable technologies. To oversee this expansion, the paper revealed a Ministerial Delivery Group will be established, offering cross-government collaboration and coordination, while tackling barriers such as the development of appropriate network infrastructure to support future deployment.

It further pledged to bring at least one large-scale nuclear project to the point of a final investment decision by the end of this parliament; consult on whether it is appropriate to end gas grid connections to new homes being built from 2025; grow the installation of electric heat pumps to 600,000 per year by 2028; and build world-leading digital infrastructure for the energy system based on the vision set out by the independent Energy Data Taskforce, which will publish the UK’s first Energy Data Strategy in spring 2021, in partnership with Ofgem.

A UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) will also be established from 1 January 2021, aligned with the net zero target, giving industry the certainty they need to invest in low carbon technologies. It will be the world’s first net zero carbon cap and trade market, the government added, marking a key step towards achieving net zero by 2050.

Elsewhere, the paper targets a green recovery from Covid-19, setting out actions to grow the economy, support thousands of green jobs in new green industries and create new export opportunities. Here, the government will increase the ambition in its Industrial Clusters Mission four-fold by aiming to deliver four low-carbon clusters by 2030 and at least one fully net zero cluster by 2040; invest £1bn up to 2025 to facilitate deployment of CCUS in two industrial clusters by the mid-2020s, and a further two by 2030, supporting its ambition to capture 10MtCO2 per year by the end of the decade; and work with industry to develop 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030.

Affordability is set to be at the heart of the UK’s shift from fossil fuels, with the paper outlining how government plans to ensure a fair deal for consumers. It is committing to provide at least £6.7bn to support the fuel poor and most vulnerable over the next six years; create a framework to introduce opt-in switching and will consult by March 2021 on how this should be designed, tested and incrementally scaled up; and consider how the current auto-renewable and roll-over tariff arrangements could be reformed to facilitate greater competition, again consulting by March 2021 on how opt-out switching could be tested as part of any future reforms.