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‘Energy Security Day’

Campaigners say ‘Green Day’ announcements amount to ‘yet another government failure’ on climate action
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Old simple rural wood electrical pole

Today (30 March), the government announced a package of responses to the global race to lead on green tech advancement, Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review and last year’s High Court ruling that its current Net Zero Strategy is inadequate and unlawful.

The ‘Green Day’ or ‘Energy Security Day’ announcements should have formed the backbone of a substantial green industrial strategy if the UK is to avoid being left behind as the US, EU and China race ahead to support emerging markets and future green technologies, attracting global investment.

Instead, Kate Norgrove, executive director of advocacy & campaigns at WWF, called today’s announcements ‘a half-baked rehash of existing commitments that fail to meet the strong public call for environmental action’, adding that ‘every day should be ‘green day’.’

‘Green Day has turned into Groundhog Day – yet another government failure on climate action. As climate chaos hits our shores and millions struggle to pay their bills, ministers have again spectacularly failed to rise to the challenge. This piecemeal, re-heated and confusing announcement is just not enough to meaningfully tackle climate change or to provide secure, affordable energy for households. 

‘Hundreds of thousands of homes will remain uninsulated by next winter. Cheap wind power is still effectively banned onshore in England. There’s no net zero mandate for the energy regulator. And our policy on electric vehicles remains – at best – stuck in second gear.

‘Ministers talk about leading the world, but the UK is not even making it to the starting blocks of the green tech race. A good government would go all in on renewable, efficient energy to give millions of people warm homes, clean air, lower bills and a safe climate – but Powering Up Britain is a far cry from what this country needs.’

MEL EVANS
Greenpeace UK’s head of climate

 

Electric vehicles

The government has announced £380m to boost charging infrastructure and a further consultation is expected on how many electric models car manufacturers must sell each year (Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate).

‘The measures on charging are welcome but do not go far enough’, said Greenpeace UK. ‘Delaying introducing a robust ZEV mandate through yet another consultation is unacceptable. Without further action to secure battery plants to deliver green job opportunities and more money and enabling policies to deliver adequate charging infrastructure to meet demand, the government’s EV strategy would still be in need of a jump start.’

Renewable energy

The government has announced £160m for floating offshore wind port infrastructure, and confirmed it will reduce planning obstacles to solar and offshore wind.

The 5th (now annual) auction round for renewables contracts has opened with £205m available – though the strike price limits have not been changed from last year.

‘The £160m for floating offshore is welcome although as a technology where we could genuinely lead the world it seems a bit half-hearted compared to the £4bn an expert group assessed as necessary for that task’, said Greenpeace UK. ‘There is an ongoing failure to permit onshore wind in England that remains blocked by planning rules, and promises to streamline planning for offshore wind and solar were made in the British Energy Security Strategy nearly a year ago and have seen little change.

‘Meanwhile there are doubts about whether the benchmarks and funding in the new renewables contract auction have been set at a level too low to attract investment given the supply chain inflation and high-interest rates.’

Nuclear power

Rules on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) competition will come in the autumn.

‘Nuclear power has consistently failed to deliver on time or to budget’, said Greenpeace UK. ‘It’s an expensive distraction from genuine climate and energy security solutions, like renewable power and grid upgrades. SMRs don’t yet exist, are highly unlikely to solve our energy woes and won’t provide a solution to the waste hazards that come with nuclear.’

Carbon capture and storage

The government has announced a number of CCS clusters are moving to the next stage of development. Clusters expected to go into negotiations over funding are East of England and around Morecambe Bay.

‘Carbon capture is not zero carbon; is unlikely to see dramatic cost reductions or be scalable; and is often used for greenwashing by oil and gas companies so they can carry on polluting’, said Greenpeace UK. ‘It doesn’t do what it says on the tin and certainly should not be prioritised as part of a green industrial strategy.’

Heat pumps and insulation

A rebrand of ECO+ has been announced alongside the widening of access to the grant scheme, with the intention to insulate 300,000 homes, and a £30m Heat Pump Investment Accelerator.

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme will also be extended, though neither scope nor timing have been announced. 

‘Our European neighbours are snapping up heat pumps like hot cakes, while UK households are being left out in the cold’, said Greenpeace UK. ‘The Boiler Upgrade Scheme is failing and needs a much more rounded strategy to increase heat pump uptake including skills packages, independent consumer advice and support, advertising and promotion, as well as much more money.

‘£30m for an ‘investment accelerator’ just isn’t going to move the dial. £3.37bn extra is needed now as part of a market mechanism to accelerate the transition away from gas heating towards installation of heat pumps, alongside a requirement on boiler manufacturers to shift production to heat pumps on a timeframe in line with a commitment to ban all new gas boilers by 2033.’

Rebalancing gas and electricity bills

The government will set out plans during 2023/24 to rebalance gas and electricity costs in household bills with the aim of making electricity bills cheaper and speeding up electrification for households and businesses. 

‘This could be a welcome and necessary step towards allowing households to truly benefit from clean heat and power’, said Greenpeace UK. ‘Yet despite the pressure on household bills there is no clarity on when the government will act. The government should have confirmed an immediate relief of policy costs on electricity bills, with further action to transfer the cost to gas bills at a later date.’

Upgrading the grid

Instead of announcing plans to boost carbon capture and projects that campaigners argue would do nothing for our energy security and would be disastrous for the climate, Greenpeace UK has urged the government to listen to energy experts, industry and its own auditors.

They have warned that without upgrading the outdated grid we won’t be able to roll out renewables at the speed needed to tackle the cost of energy and climate crisis.

A wait of up to 13 years to connect new renewable and battery storage projects to Britain’s grid is threatening investment and undermining the shift away from fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of pounds are being wasted to shut down electricity generators when the grid can’t take the extra power.

Problems with the electricity grid are well documented, blocking our ability to use and store renewable energy all over the country. The grid needs upgrading and expanding so it can transmit power from where it is made to where it is needed at the scale we need. 

According to Ofgem, a smart grid could save up to £4.7 billion a year by the end of this decade. Our bills are predicted to rise again if these issues are not addressed in the package of measures announced this week by the government.

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