Car­bon plan boosts off­shore wind­farms by £500m

Sub­si­dies may help dou­ble ca­pac­ity over 10 years Green groups’ de­light af­ter cli­mate projects were axed

The Guardian - - FINANCIAL - Adam Vaughan En­vi­ron­ment cor­re­spon­dent

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.

Pho­to­graph: Alan Daw­son/Alamy

The wind­farms plan is part of a 164-page gov­ern­ment blue­print to re­duce car­bon emis­sions

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