Energy White Paper sets out how Net Zero future will be powered

Mon 14 December 2020 View all news

The Government has published the first Energy White Paper in thirteen years, setting out how the UK will attempt to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and set a course for net zero emissions by 2050.

The White Paper sets out immediate steps needed to achieve the UK's ambitions on climate. It provides more detail on how the UK intends to deliver on the Prime Minister’s recently announced 'Ten-point plan'.

Most of the big announcement had already been signalled in the Ten Point Plan but the White Paper sets out in more detail how it envisages the transition will take place.

Speaking to the House of Commons, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: "We have set out a vision of the future for us all—a future where smart appliances charge at the cheapest price, where one can sell electricity from one’s car back into the grid, and where hydrogen heats homes.

"We will go further, to ensure that the energy system works for consumers. We will introduce competition in the building and operation of onshore networks to drive down costs and increase investment and innovation, all ultimately benefiting consumers.

"We will also minimise the grid connections to our offshore wind farms...We will use data to search for cheaper and more innovative ways to power our homes, transport and businesses by publishing the UK’s first energy data strategy in the spring.

"This will all help to create a fair deal for consumers and protect the fuel poor, and it will give us warmer, more comfortable homes as we transition to net zero."

The White Paper reaffirms that clean energy will be at the heart of our transformation from a fossil fuel-based energy system to one that will deliver net zero. Low carbon electricity will be a key enabler and the Government has reaffirmed its manifesto commitment to 40 GW of offshore wind, including 1 GW of floating wind, by 2030.

The Government has also committed to work with industry in aiming for 5 GW of hydrogen by 2030. It has reaffirmed that it considers that nuclear power will continue to be an important source of energy in the UK.

Climate Brief comments, however, that even with the wealth of additional detail in the White Paper, there remains a significant gap between proposed emissions cuts and those required under the UK’s climate targets.

Among other things, Carbon Brief points out, the document contains a whole section on “cleaner coal” and says “fossil fuels will continue to be the predominant source of energy for decades to come”. It targets 20% renewables in the grid by 2020.

Prof Rebecca Willis, an energy and climate governance researcher at Lancaster University, (quoted by Carbon Brief) said the White Paper is evidence of “less complacency” about the task ahead: “This is a very different energy white paper from one that might have come 10 years ago or even five years ago. I think that the commitment to the net-zero target runs all the way through it…I think there is now much more of a recognition of the job that has to be done.”

Much further detail is expected in the coming months as various sector-specific strategies and consultations emerge including the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, now expected to be published in Spring 2021. There will also be an overarching Net Zero Strategy.

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