UK Sets Out Energy Plans, Critics Bemoan Lack of Clean Tech Boost

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Britain set out plans to boost energy security and tackle emissions on Thursday, but critics said a lack of new investment and incentives meant it failed to provide any new boost for the country's green energy sector.

Britain's net zero start-ups and renewable energy producers are waiting for the country to respond to the green subsidies offered by the U.S. $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), but the government has said that will not come until the autumn.

Energy security minister Grant Shapps said the 1,000 pages of documents published on Thursday were focused on energy security, a major focus since the war in Ukraine.

Wholesale gas and electricity prices in Europe surged after Russia invaded Ukraine last year and the British government has been subsidising household and business energy bills since October.

"We want complete independence from that and that is really the key to what I'm doing today," Shapps told LBC Radio. 

He highlighted nuclear plans, which include backing small modular reactor power plants, and using hydrogen to generate clean electricity, to help secure domestic energy production. 

There were also further details on a raft of previously announced schemes such as funding for offshore wind, carbon capture, speeding up planning processes for solar and offshore wind projects, rolling out more electric vehicle charging points and encouraging heat pumps in homes. 

But the opposition Labour Party said the Conservative government should be responding to the IRA. 

"What was billed with huge hype as the government’s 'green day' turns out to be a weak and feeble groundhog day of re-announcements, reheated policy, and no new investment," said Labour's climate and net zero spokesman, Ed Miliband.

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace said the government's energy plans were not going far or fast enough to tackle climate change. 

"Cheap wind power is still effectively banned onshore in England," said Greenpeace UK's head of climate, Mel Evans. 

"Ministers talk about leading the world, but the UK is not even making it to the starting blocks of the green tech race."

The government's energy policy dealt a blow to those projects which were not selected for financial support, including British power generator Drax and its method of carbon capture - bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

Its shares lost 5% in morning deals.

Shapps told LBC that households would not be penalized if they do not switch from gas heating to lower emissions heat pumps, denying a report in the Daily Telegraph.     

Over the past year, Britain has introduced windfall taxes on oil and gas as well as on renewables, which companies say stifles investment and in turn is likely to increase Britain's dependence on imported fuels and derail its climate targets.

Oil and gas producers had called for floor prices to be applied to the windfall tax, and renewable power companies wanted better investment incentives, neither of which featured in the plans outlined in advance by the government.   

 (Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Sarah Young and Muvija M, Editing by Mark Heinrich, Angus MacSwan and Christina Fincher)

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