The wait is almost over for the Energy White Paper
The Energy White Paper is now due to appear in the first quarter of 2020, over a decade after the last iteration, depending on the outcome of the general election.
In order to meet the country’s ambitious net-zero carbon targets, clarity and decisive action are needed now more than ever.
So, what could this new Energy White Paper include?
• A blueprint for a low carbon future – Climate change has become the topic at the forefront of everyone’s minds, with many politicians now viewing low-carbon policies as vote winners. However, these policies need to be put into action as soon as possible. This is where the Energy White Paper needs to step in to show what needs to happen to achieve a low-carbon future and hit the 2050 net-zero carbon target.
• Financial support for nuclear power new build – Private sector investors remain under pressure to participate in nuclear projects. With Hitachi and Toshiba recently suspending or pulling out of their UK projects, claiming financial unviability, it is possible that the White Paper will back a regulatory asset base (RAB) mechanism for new project support that will allow developers to draw down funding during the construction phase.
• Support for solar and onshore wind power – The UK needs a diverse power sector, meaning investment in a new nuclear build programme will not be enough. Therefore, it is likely that there will also be policies set to help other forms of renewable energy enter or grown in the market, including offshore wind, in which the UK is a global leader.
• Explicit backing for gas as a transition fuel – Shale gas exploration and development appears to be no more in the UK, so another transition fuel is needed leading up to 2050. Our existing LNG import terminal infrastructure that complements the continental interconnector pipelines, and the strong international LNG market, means the UK has a reliable supply chain when it comes to gas. As a result, it could be an ideal transition fuel.
• The deployment of renewable heating – For net-zero carbon targets to be met, this problem must be solved. Current subsidy schemes are not necessarily suitable, and further support is needed for hydrogen and related technologies to be deployed on a useable scale. As a result, the White Paper should look at reviving the scrapped 2016 zero carbon homes policy, prioritising heat efficiency for new and existing housing.
• A switch to electric vehicles – Although there is a need for improved financial incentives for consumers to go fully electric, there have been a number of positive actions in this area. The Road to Zero strategy has been largely welcomed and vehicle choice has grown considerably, plus, charging infrastructure is improving. However, there is still a lot to do before we can all embrace electric.
The power, heat and transport sectors have been patiently waiting for this Energy White Paper, but will the policies be sufficient and achievable? Thankfully, businesses in the UK appear ready to take on the challenge of net-zero, it just remains to be seen whether the White Paper will be enough to shape a successful future for the energy sector.
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