Carbon plan boosts offshore windfarms by £500m
Subsidies may help double capacity over 10 years Green groups’ delight after climate projects were axed
Windfarms off the British coast are poised to almost double in capacity over the next 10 years, after the government confirmed the inclusion of more than £500m of renewable energy subsidies in its climate change masterplan.
The long delayed Clean Growth Strategy, published yesterday, sets out how the UK intends to hit its binding target of cutting carbon emissions by 57% by 2032 – a target that advisers have warned is likely to be missed.
The 164-page blueprint outlines 50 policies for cutting emissions in energy, waste, transport and food. The policies include the £557m boost for offshore windfarms and “less established” renewable energy technologies, which would cover the cost of a further 10GW of wind power installed (nearly twice today’s 5.3GW).
The plans also include allowing onshore windfarms, on remote Scottish islands, to compete for subsidies, potentially leaving the door ajar for more subsidised windfarms on the mainland later on.
There are proposals in the blueprint for insulating and overhauling England and Wales’ draughtiest homes to bring them up to a minimum standard of energy band C by 2035, and also new funding of £100m for research on capturing and storing carbon emissions produced at power stations and during industrial processes.
The business secretary, Greg Clark, compared the changes with regard to energy today with the big changes brought by the UK’s first coal power station in 1882.
He said as he launched the plan at the Olympic Park, London: “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.”
Green campaigners, industry groups and businesses mostly welcomed the plan but said it needed more ambition and lacked detail in some areas.
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, that’s very welcome.”
Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said the strategy showed a sea change in “top-line thinking about the low carbon economy”, with Theresa May’s government seeing it as an opportunity rather than cost, as it was viewed under David Cameron.
Claire Perry, the climate minister, said that May’s foreword to the plan was important, showing how seriously government was taking it. Asked if the strategy showed green-minded Tories were winning out after a slew of climate programmes were axed by the Conservatives in 2015, she said: “This isn’t about factions winning, it’s about getting on with capturing the opportunity [for business].”
She added: “This is doubling down on the green ambition, actually saying we see the economic benefit from doing this.” The minister said there would be a triple test for whether the government was backing clean technologies: the amount emissions declined would have to be maximised; the technologies would need to show they could be cheaper; and they should allow the UK to “lead the world”.
She said a proposed £1.3bn tidal lagoon at Swansea, which an independent review backed but which government had yet to comment on, would have to pass the test.
The plan is scant on any details as to how the UK would cut emissions from heating, and simply explores the best options. Low-carbon alternatives to gas include electrification via heat pumps, or use of “greener” gases such as hydrogen.
Many of the ideas in the strategy had already been announced, such as the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and the £246m funding to develop batteries for cars and energy systems.
Despite the wide-ranging policies, the strategy concedes that the UK is still not on track to meet its legally binding carbon targets for the late 2020s and early 2030s. The government noted it had “flexibilities” on targets under the Climate Change Act but might not need to use them.
The Committee on Climate Change, the UK’s statutory climate advisers, welcomed the strategy but warned ministers against using the law’s flexibilities in meeting carbon targets. “This should not be the plan,” said Lord Deben, the group’s chair. The authority is to pass its verdict on the plan in January.
The Green party called the strategy a missed opportunity. Its co-leader Caroline Lucas said: “Government has blown this enormous opportunity to put Britain on track to meet its climate target.”
Other observers, including the London School of Economics, said the strategy’s broad thrust was good but too vague.
The windfarms plan is part of a 164-page government blueprint to reduce carbon emissions