Draughty homes tar­geted in UK cli­mate change mas­ter­plan

The Guardian Australia - - Environment - Adam Vaughan En­ergy cor­re­spon­dent

The UK’s draugh­ti­est homes will be in­su­lated and up­graded by 2035 to save fam­i­lies as much as £300 a year on their en­ergy bills, un­der the gov­ern­ment’s cli­mate change mas­ter­plan.

The long-de­layed blue­print for how the UK will hit its bind­ing tar­get of cut­ting emis­sions by 57% by 2032 ma­jors on sup­port for ev­ery­thing from low-car­bon power, en­ergy sav­ings and elec­tric ve­hi­cles to keep­ing food waste out of land­fill.

Big win­ners in the 164-page Clean Growth Strat­egy in­clude off­shore wind­farm de­vel­op­ers, who will be guar­an­teed a fur­ther £550m of sub­si­dies to build new tur­bines through­out the next decade.

En­ergy ef­fi­ciency is at the heart of the strat­egy, which the gov­ern­ment was re­quired to pub­lish un­der the Cli­mate Change Act. All houses will be brought up to the min­i­mum of en­ergy band C by 2035, and ex­ist­ing schemes to im­prove in­su­la­tion will be ex­tended un­til 2028.

New nu­clear power sta­tions are en­cour­aged, but prospec­tive builders such as France’s EDF are told they will only go ahead if they can do so at com­pet­i­tive prices.

Min­is­ters also held open the prospect of fu­ture sup­port for so­lar power, and gave partial back­ing for on­shore wind­farms.

The busi­ness sec­re­tary, Greg Clark, com­pared the changes un­der way in en­ergy today to the big changes wrought by the UK’s first coal power sta­tion in 1882.

“This gov­ern­ment has put clean growth at the heart of its in­dus­trial strat­egy to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity, boost peo­ple’s earn­ing power and en­sure Bri­tain con­tin­ues to lead the world in ef­forts to tackle cli­mate change,” he said, launch­ing the plan at the Olympic Park in east Lon­don.

Green groups and ob­servers wel­comed the plan but said it needed more am­bi­tion in some ar­eas, par­tic­u­larly on sup­port­ing cleaner cars.

But there are also no­table omis­sions in the strat­egy, in par­tic­u­lar back­ing for a pro­posed £1.3bn tidal la­goon power sta­tion in Swansea.

The plan is also scant on any de­tail of how the UK will cut emis­sions from heat­ing, talk­ing in­stead of sim­ply ex­plor­ing the best op­tions. Low-car­bon al­ter­na­tives to gas in­clude elec­tri­fi­ca­tion via heat pumps, or us­ing greener gases such as hy­dro­gen.

Robert Gross, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for En­ergy Pol­icy and Tech­nol­ogy at Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don, said the pol­i­tics of the strat­egy were key, and showed the greener wings of the Tory party had won out.

“In 2015 the gov­ern­ment started hack­ing and slash­ing at all man­ner of green poli­cies. This has stopped, and that’s very wel­come,” he said.

John Sau­ven, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Green­peace UK, said: “The strat­egy is in on the right track but we need a more am­bi­tious des­ti­na­tion.”

Other ex­perts said the broad thrust of the strat­egy was good, but it was vague in some ar­eas.

“There is much to praise in the Clean Growth Strat­egy but there are also many as­pi­ra­tions rather than tan­gi­ble pol­icy com­mit­ments. For in­stance the strat­egy is no­tably vague on in­dus­trial en­ergy ef­fi­ciency,” said Prof Sam Fankhauser, di­rec­tor of the Gran­tham Re­search In­sti­tute on Cli­mate Change and the En­vi­ron­ment at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics.

Big win­ners in the 164-page Clean Growth Strat­egy in­clude off­shore wind­farm de­vel­op­ers. Pho­to­graph: Steve Mor­gan for the Guardian

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