The UK Government’s ‘Green Day’ plans announced today (30 March) to ensure energy security in the UK, has receive an overwhelming negative response from the majority of the energy sector, with the TUC describing its announcements as “piecemeal measures.”
“These piecemeal measures don’t add up to a national plan on the scale needed. Not for our net zero target, nor for protecting jobs and industry,” said TUC general secretary, Paul Nowak.
“Conservative ministers can’t even get their act together on the low hanging fruit. The home improvements scheme to reduce energy use and cut bills covers less than a tenth of the social housing that needs it. And there is no reassurance for energy-intensive industries that cannot cope with spiking energy prices.”
Following the urgency of the IPCC’s call to action in it’s latest report, disappointment over the lack of impactful measures in the government’s announcement was widely shared throughout the sector.
Aleathea Warrington, senior campaigner at climate charity, Possible, said: “This pathetic announcement comes just a week after the IPCC warned with unprecedented urgency that we have to stop burning oil, gas and coal to have any hope of a liveable future, and as households across the UK remain in desperate need of affordable energy due to soaring gas costs. Yet the government still refuses to deliver the clean, cheap, secure renewable energy we need.”
Current± takes a look at the energy sector’s response to the UK Government’s ‘Green Day’ announcement below.
An additional ‘energy sector reacts’ piece containing an overview of positive responses from the sector will follow this piece.
Omission of onshore wind
The announcement’s silence regarding the de facto ban on onshore wind was noted by a number of industry members.
The government’s unwillingness to unlock the significant potential presented by onshore wind has been repeatedly criticised and was on of the topics the energy sector was eager for today’s announcement to address.
“Onshore wind is overwhelmingly popular across the country. By ending the ban on new onshore wind developments in England we can unlock at least 20GW of onshore wind generation by 2030. But this plan is silent on the cheapest form of energy available to us,” said Sam Richards, founder and campaign director of campaign group Britain Remade.
Warrington added: “Today we should have seen the onshore wind ban in England lifted. Instead, the government has, shamefully, decided to increase their support for fossil fuels.
“Rather than unblock onshore wind, the government is pumping billions into dangerous, risky and polluting gas and nuclear power – and sending the huge bill to energy bill payers. But it is not just billpayers, but our climate and people around the world, who will pay the price for this government’s appalling choice of dirty, expensive and insecure energy instead of onshore wind.”
The grid conundrum continues
As studied in Current± Explores’ mini-series on the grid connection conundrum, the issue of modernising the UK’s grid connection network continues to be one of the core challenges faced by the UK energy sector.
Like onshore wind however, today’s announcement did not address this issue.
“The biggest obstacle on our path to net zero remains unmoved. Without significant grid connection reform, vast potential of clean energy development will linger trapped behind red tape and bureaucratic delays,” said founder of Kona Energy, Andy Willis.
“Investment and funding into the industry is not the issue – it’s connecting these projects to the grid where the real frustration lies. Kona has approved battery storage facilities that could be built and pumping power into countless homes in a matter of months, but due to the archaic system that will now take years.
“It is not uncommon to hear of connection dates in the late 2030s. This is entirely unsustainable to expect international investment to keep coming if it won’t see returns for almost twenty years.”
Chris Wickins, technical director at the renewable infrastructure developer, Field Energy added: “We’d also have liked to see more on investment in the grid that’s needed to connect the generators supported today. National Grid and Ofgem have been making good progress on grid connection reform here and the Government would do well to throw their weight behind that crucial initiative.”
Chief executive at Energy Networks Association (ENA), Lawrence Slade however, held out hope for future announcements to support the grid connection challenge: “Alongside the immediate steps our members are already taking, we hope the Electricity Commissioner’s review of planning and connections will help identify and remove barriers for customers looking to connect to the grid and speed up the development of vital energy infrastructure.
Managing the UK’s energy bills
Members of the sector also expressed concern that today’s announcement did little to address the nation’s collective struggle to pay both domestic and business energy bills as a result of the ongoing energy crisis.
Discussing this issue, Nowak said: “The overall approach is fundamentally flawed because it leaves families at the mercy of the same energy firms that have been ripping them off. The British public should own our future green energy supply. That’s how we can make sure that our energy is secure and affordable for all.”
Contrastingly, managing director at British Gas, Andrew Middleton believes that the measures announced today will help tackle the energy bill crisis.
Middleton said: “Making our homes more energy efficient will help households to save on their bills and reduce their carbon emissions.
“From loft insulation to adopting smart energy saving technology, there are so many ways to upgrade the efficiency of the homes we live in. Today’s grant funding announcement will make green home solutions a reality for even more homeowners across the UK.”
Other issues mentioned by members of the energy sector include obscurity surrounding how the UK can attract renewable investment in response to attractive international policies.
“The Government’s decision to delay its response to the US and EU green subsidy plans until the autumn is a missed opportunity for the UK to set out its stall with a framework that provides a stable, favourable investment clean technology environment.
“With a lack of clarity on how it intends to attract green capital, the UK risks spending time watching investors, jobs and our own homegrown clean technology companies flow towards the US and EU. Rather than acting as just a deployer of new technology developed overseas, the UK’s strong industrial fundamentals, backed by targeted government incentives, present a clear opportunity for the UK to invest in R&D and crucially, in the domestic manufacture of the technologies, tools and infrastructure that we need to deliver Net Zero.”
Despite the Government announcing the interim chair and CEO of the Great British Nuclear (GBN) launched as part of the Spring Budget earlier this month, Sam Richards said that the scheme was not moving fast enough.
“Now that Great British Nuclear has an interim chair and chief executive it should hit the ground running and urgently draw up a list of sites where fleets of new Small Modular Reactors can be built.
“As well as all existing licensed nuclear sites, all former coal powered power stations should be included. This should be their number one priority and run alongside any competition to select technologies for development or negotiations with the Treasury over funding. If we want the economies of scale and power that a full fleet of SMR’s can provide, we need to have a plan for where to actually build them.”