The Clean Growth Strategy is an ambitious, important, and exciting strategy that has the potential to revolutionise the British economy over the next decade. It is also, as many commentators have noted, badly under-powered in crucial places and guilty of marrying a sense of urgency with a contradictory willingness to defer tough decisions. As one government source put it, “it doesn’t solve all the problems, but it is a big step forward”. That feels about right. The many positives contained in the strategy’s 164 pages are worth noting once again. There’s the prospect of 10GW of offshore wind capacity and subsidy free renewables. There’s the hugely welcome promise of a renewed focus on both domestic and industrial energy efficiency. There’s the plan to revive carbon capture technology in the UK with a welcome push to capture and use CO2. There’s the $2.5bn of clean tech innovation funding with its accompanying awareness that urgent progress is required on those ‘hard to reach’ parts of the UK’s carbon footprint. There’s the continued multi-billion pound support for low emission transport. And there’s long overdue moves to streamline carbon pricing, reintroduce tougher building standards, launch green mortgages, deliver a new waste strategy, and explore how to curb emissions from land use. The government’s green wing has presented the narrative that can help win their colleagues over, highlighted the areas where urgent progress is still needed, and effectively invited green businesses and campaigners to pile in and help them make the case for a new wave of climate action. It is an invitation they should accept. Although, unfortunately, we are going to have to wait a bit longer to find out what it all means.
Business Green 19th Oct 2017 read more »
Renewable energy prices are falling through the floor and Britain is building more wind and solar farms than ever. This is good news for energy security and climate activists – but there’s a catch. Britain is also importing more electricity than ever and, despite our pretension to green credentials, we have no idea how it’s generated. A new paper for the Centre for Policy Studies by Tony Lodge and Daniel Mahoney highlights that Britain’s electricity imports increased by 52pc in the three years to 2016, and they are only headed in one direction. Insofar as the Government has an energy policy, it involves increasing reliance on foreign supply. Back in 2012, imports were expected to account for just 6 terawatt hours of supply per year. But four years later, the projection had radically changed. The 2016 forecast sees Britain’s electricity imports rising from 21 terawatt hours to a peak of 77 in 2025 before declining to 67 in 2030. That’s close to a fifth of supply. There are two sides to this story. One of them is positive. Recent years have seen rising investment in the capacity of undersea interconnector cables that bring power to Britain. Currently, these cables have a capacity of 4 gigawatts, but there is another 4.4GW under construction and last year, the Government announced plans for another 9.5GW. Having a more developed, interconnected and flexible grid is a positive for UK electricity markets. It has allowed Britain’s under-investment in energy storage to go almost unnoticed and aided the integration of intermittent renewables. There is also nothing inherently wrong with importing some of our power, just as there is nothing wrong with importing bread. But relying on international electricity markets for up to a fifth of our total electricity at a time when European supply is expected to tighten is a recipe for rising prices and volatility. The truth is that Britain’s rising imports are, in the short term, an easy way out for a government that has failed to deliver the investment in new gas plants that it promised. Back in 2012, the coalition government had plans for a new generation of gas-fired plants that would be easy to switch on and off to accommodate the sporadic nature of renewable supply. It estimated that Britain would need 26GW in additional gas generation capacity by 2030 to plug any potential gap left by cloudy, windless days. On current trends, however, the UK is on track to build just 12GW by 2030.
Telegraph 23rd Oct 2017 read more »