“They simply restate existing targets, and there is no mention of onshore wind at all; the cheapest form of energy generation, the quickest to build and connect to the grid.”
By Paul Atkin, Greener Jobs Alliance
The Government’s Powering Up Britain Report doubles down on all the structural problems that led to their High Court defeat in September. Shapps’s update is still based primarily on techno fixes; Great British Nuclear, Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage and a Net Zero Hydrogen Fund. All three of these are based on untested and hopeful technological punts instead of going hell for leather for renewables.
On this, they simply restate existing targets, and there is no mention of onshore wind at all; the cheapest form of energy generation, the quickest to build and connect to the grid and overwhelmingly popular too. Perhaps they have a death wish. On insulation, they aim just to tweak market incentives at a micro level in the hope that consumers will lead by demand (with those that can afford it going first) so there can be a scattering of penny packet conversions to generate business for half trained white van men. What could possibly go wrong?
On transport, 26% of UK CO2 emissions and plateaued for a decade, there is nothing about switching from private cars to public transport, from individual to social forms of travel, nothing about redesigning cities or new developments around walkability and community facilities to reduce car dependence, nothing about investment in upgrading rail and urban tramways; just a presumption that we just need to switch from petrol/diesel cars to electric vehicles (EVs).
Although Labour has also bought into CCUS, “new nuclear” and hydrogen, current plans would at least call time on new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, unblock onshore wind, invest ten times as much into Port infrastructure for floating offshore wind as the Tories have earmarked, ensure a zero emissions standard for new build homes and put serious money into insulation; which would make more of a dent in carbon emissions and fuel poverty. They would also seek to match the state subsidy given to investors by the US and EU to prevent deindustrialisation in sectors like automotive and steel manufacture.
Labour’s proposed £28 billion a year into the transition would bring the UK up to about the average level in the EU.
This would be a step forward, but not enough. As Adam Tooze has noted, to make the energy transition the world needs to be investing $4 trillion annually. At present we are investing just above a quarter of that and, as Tooze points out, “the only country that over the last decade has come anywhere close to spending, lending and investing on the required scale is China”, which last year accounted for almost half the global effort.
A reallocation of the sums currently allocated to war preparation in the West/Global North is probably the only way to match this, which would be “win, win” all round.
As Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency has pointed out ”no country is an energy island and energy transitions will be more costly and slow if countries do not work together.”
- This article was originally published by the Greener Jobs Alliance (GJA) April 2023 Newsletter – you can read the newsletter in full here.
- Paul Atkin is the editor of the GJA, you can follow them on Facebook and twitter.