Meeting Labour’s prospective target of reaching net zero status by 2030 would be a “considerable challenge” that would require a number of clean technologies to rapidly ramp up over the next decade, the industry has said.
Yesterday (24 September 2019) the Labour Party approved a motion to adopt a Green New Deal, under which the party has pledged to commit to pursuing a net zero economy by 2050 in the event of a Labour majority in any prospective general election.
That target, some 20 years earlier than the current target, made legally binding four months ago, would make it the most ambitious and give the UK just eleven years to achieve the transition.
Chris Hewett, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, said that whilst an earlier target is welcome, 2030 would be a “considerable challenge” due to the practicalities of decarbonising “more difficult sectors” such as transport and heat.
Hewett also stressed the importance of utilising solar and battery storage in the transition, which will play a "vital role" over the next decade, in particular as costs are set to continue to fall in the period.
"Solar can be deployed very quickly and has already demonstrated it can do this at scale. The industry stands ready to deliver."
Reaching net zero by 2030
The CCC’s net zero report was clear that 2050 would only be plausible if the country’s policy framework is sufficiently ramped up. In the months since the report, the government has received several calls to action from the industry, ranging from National Grid urging that “immediate” action is needed to meet targets to the CCC itself criticising the “shortfall” in policy action.
Labour's Green New Deal motion does outline a series of policies to support the 2030 goal, most notably public ownership of the Big Six energy suppliers, “large-scale investment in renewables and low-carbon energy” and public ownership of energy to create an integrated, “democratic system”.
Labour also unveiled plans for the creation of 37 new offshore wind farms to boost the UK’s capacity to 52GW by 2030 and the investment of billions into EV charging infrastructure.
Luke Clark of RenewableUK said offshore wind’s record results in the latest Contracts for Difference auction show that the technology “will be key to achieving net zero as cheaply as possible for consumers."
However, Clark stressed that “we need to rapidly ramp up" all clean power sources, "including onshore wind and innovative renewable technologies" to unlock decarbonisation across the economy.
Concerns over the cost of a 2050 net zero have also previously been raised after the Treasury calculated the price tag as £1 trillion. That figure was slammed by the BEIS Select Committee and described by Ed Miliband as “slightly disturbing." However, net zero by any date is still expected to have deep financial requirements, with the CCC predicting net zero by 2050 will cost £50 billion.
Labour's Green New Deal says it plans to ensure the costs of decarbonisation are "borne by the wealthiest" and sets out plans to tackling transport emissions, consumption emissions and promotion of the international exchange of technology, expertise, products, resources and services, amongst others.
Renationalisation in the face of net zero
The pledge for net zero by 2030 comes days after a report warned that Labour’s previously-announced plans to renationalise the energy networks would place net zero at risk.
In response to the 2030 target, a spokesperson for the ENA said: “To meet the challenge of Net Zero as quickly as possible, it’s imperative that we don’t waste valuable time and resources on redesigning a system that’s been proven to work.
“Private investment has helped make Britain a superpower of renewable energy. Let’s build on that to reach Net Zero.”
Along with Labour's plans for renationalising the energy networks, the Green New Deal outlined plans for making the Big Six publicly owned and a more general ambition of making energy publicly owned.
A spokesperson for Energy UK said that while the trade association welcomes the 2030 target, private investment in the energy industry is required for reaching net zero.
"Meeting net zero will require significant investment by private markets and a sustainable retail sector to continue to innovate and bring the benefits of a future smart energy system to customers.
"Private investment in energy - which was £13.1 billion last year, has revolutionised the industry, creating a power sector that has been world-leading in decarbonisation while creating green jobs, boosting economic growth and delivering increased choice and reducing costs for customers.”