Is the government's Ten Point Plan revolutionary enough to achieve a green industrial revolution?
This month, the UK government released its Ten Point Plan for the UK to lead the world into a new green industrial revolution. It aims to achieve this by making the UK a more sustainable country and fulfil its promise to be carbon neutral by 2050, and by creating thousands of green job opportunities.
As part of the plan, the government is announcing a £12 billion investment package. Whilst a substantial sum, it is significantly lower than other countries in Western Europe, such as Germany, which is investing €40 billion, and France investing €30 billion. It falls some way short of the investment required however, with PwC estimating that a £400 billion investment in green infrastructure is required over the next decade for the UK to meet its carbon neutral target. It is likely the government is relying on its commitment (and public interest) to encourage the significant private sector investment required for the UK to make up the shortfall. The plan has come under criticism for not going far enough.
Here are a few of the key aspects.
There are several challenges in integrating offshore wind energy into the UK's current energy system and the government's plan recognises the need for investment in network infrastructure and energy storage. An Offshore Transmission Network Review is underway to assess the breadth of challenges and make the appropriate policy recommendations.
2. Driving the Growth of Low Carbon Hydrogen
The UK already has several leading electrolyser companies producing low carbon hydrogen and it is envisaged that the ability to produce low carbon hydrogen at scale will be made possible by further development in the UK's carbon capture, usage, and storage infrastructure. The government also aims to replace natural gas in British homes with hydrogen/hydrogen-blended energy to achieve more sustainable heating and cooking systems. However, no details have yet been given as to how the UK's current gas infrastructure will be updated/adapted.
3. Delivering New and Advanced Nuclear Power
The government plans to invest in Nuclear Power as an alternative green energy source. In particular, it plans to invest in 'Small Modular Reactors' to develop a domestic smaller-scale power plant technology design that could potentially be built in factories and then assembled on site, and in 'Advanced Modular Reactors', which have the potential to operate at over 800°C. This high-grade heat could unlock efficient production of hydrogen and synthetic fuels.
4. Accelerating the Shift to Zero Emission Vehicles
The government intends to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans in 2030 (10 years earlier than originally planned), with low emission hybrid cars permitted until 2035. The government recognises the need for the tax system to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles, and that significant investment in batteries and charging infrastructure is required. It has therefore committed £1 billion to support the electrification of UK vehicles, and £1.3 billion to accelerate the roll out of charging infrastructure.
5. Green Public Transport, Cycling and Walking
The government plans to electrify more railway lines and introduce 4,000 British-built zero-emission buses in 2021, which will contribute to two fully electric bus towns and the first fully zero-emission city. The government also plans to build over 1,000 miles of segregated cycle lanes and walking networks by 2025.
6. Jet Zero and Green Ships
The government has established the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between industry and government to accelerate the development of zero-emission aviation, and is investing in Fly Zero's 12-month programme to look at the design challenges and market opportunity of potential zero-emission aircraft concepts. The government has also announced plans to invest in the Clean Maritime Demonstration Programme.
7. Greener Buildings
The government wants new buildings to have high levels of energy efficiency and low carbon heating and is introducing standards to support that aim. It has also set a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year until 2028, particularly for off-gas grid properties.
8. Investing in Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS)
The government plans to invest in CCUS technology and infrastructure, and to use the North Sea resource to store captured carbon under the seabed. It has also identified certain regions in the UK suited for CCUS deployment, and aims to establish two CCUS clusters by the mid-2020s (with two more to follow by 2030 if successful).
9. Protecting Our Natural Environment
The government aims to protect and restore our natural environment by designating more of England's landscapes as new national parks and areas of outstanding beauty. As part of that, it will invest in jobs in nature conservation, and establish 10 long-term 'Landscape Recover' projects to restore wilder landscapes in England.
The government also plans to invest in flood and coastal defences to reduce flood risk, supporting 2,000 flood schemes across England and better protecting over 336,000 properties.
10. Green Finance and Innovation
The government wants the UK to be a leader in innovative green technologies, and encouraging investment in research and development will be critical. As part of the strategy, it will launch a £1 billion 'Net Zero Innovation Portfolio', focusing on the points described above. This includes floating offshore wind; nuclear advanced modular reactors; energy storage and flexibility; bioenergy; hydrogen; homes; direct air capture and advanced CCUS; industrial fuel switching; and disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence for energy.
Although the Ten Point Plan has received criticism for not going far enough to tackle the climate crisis, and there are obvious gaps in the implementation details, it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Players in the renewable energy sector can take some encouragement from the government's commitment to a green industrial revolution.
Only time will tell whether the government's Ten Point Plan will overcome the obstacles to implementation, and encourage enough private sector investment in green industry for the UK to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
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