UK Government announces new targets ahead of COP26

Clean electricity generation by 2035 will become law.

In the build-up to the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, which is running in Glasgow from 31st October to 12th November, the UK Government announced a raft of new goals aimed at helping to deliver the 2050 net zero global target.

Keeping it clean         

Amongst the announcements was news that legislation will be passed through Parliament to ensure a decarbonised UK electricity network by 2035.  The announcement follows similar commitments from the UK as Canada in response to a report published in May this year by the International Energy Agency, which lays out plans for global net zero electricity by 2050. It is also in line with the latest UK Carbon Budget (April 2021) to cut emissions by 78% by 2035. 

As well as the conference, which is putting the UK in the spotlight as this year’s hosts, the announcement may also have been prompted by the dramatic rise in gas prices which have increased by more than 70% between August and October 2021.

At the conference itself, more than 20 countries have already pledged to stop all financing of overseas fossil fuel development from 2022, with the money being spent on green energy development. The move could create an estimated $8bn annually for new energy investment.

Turning up the heat

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), added more flesh to the bones of the initial government statement.  Entitled Build Back Greener, the Strategy outlined £1.5bn of government funding to help commercials ‘clean technologies’ as well as a stated intention to support up to 440,00 ‘green jobs’ by 2030. Details were also included in UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak’s Autumn Budget.  

In specific relation to the power sector, the Strategy made a range of commitments including to:

  • Take action so that by 2035, all our electricity will come from low carbon sources,
    subject to security of supply, bringing forward the government’s commitment to a
    fully decarbonised power system by 15 years.
  • Accelerate deployment of low-cost renewable generation, such as wind and
    solar through the Contracts for Difference scheme by undertaking a review of the
    frequency of the CfD auctions.
  • Deliver 40GW of offshore wind, including 1GW of innovative floating offshore wind by 2030.
  • Implement the Dispatchable Power Agreement (DPA) to support the deployment of
    first of a kind power CCUS plant(s).
  • Secure a final investment decision on a large-scale nuclear plant by the end of this
    Parliament.
  • Adopt a new approach to onshore and offshore electricity networks to incorporate
    new low carbon generation and demand in the most efficient manner.
  • Deliver the actions in our recent Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan and Energy
    Digitalisation Strategy to maximise system flexibility.
  • Provide £380m for our world-leading offshore wind sector, investing in supply
    chains, infrastructure and early-coordination of offshore transmission networks.
  • Reform system governance so that the whole system can achieve our net zero
    ambitions and meet consumers’ needs.
  • Drive market-wide rollout of smart meters with a new four-year policy framework
    that introduces fixed minimum annual installation targets for energy suppliers from 1 January 2022.
  • Consider whether broader reforms to our market frameworks are needed to unlock
    the full potential of low carbon technologies to take us all the way to net zero.
  • Ensure that consumers pay a fair, affordable price for their energy, and can engage
    with a retail energy market that offers the products and services required to make
    choices that support net zero.
  • Ensure the planning system can support the deployment of low carbon energy
    infrastructure.

The Strategy also focuses on transport, in particular electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.  Amongst a raft of commitments, the following are likely to impact the energy sector in particular:

  • Ensure the UK’s charging infrastructure network is reliable, accessible, and meets
    the demands of all motorists. Later this year, we will publish an EV infrastructure
    strategy, setting out our vision for infrastructure rollout, and roles for the public and
    private sectors in achieving it.
  • Building on the £1.9 billion from Spending Review 2020, the Government has
    committed an additional £620 million to support the transition to electric vehicles.
    The funding will support the rollout of charging infrastructure, with a particular focus
    on local on-street residential charging, and targeted plug-in vehicle grants.
  • Electrify more railway lines as part of plans to deliver a net zero rail network by 2050, with the ambition to remove all diesel-only trains by 2040.

Commenting on the Government announcements, National Grid’s Chief Engineer David Wright, stated: “In the lead up to COP26, the UK has certainly raised the bar on ambition to tackle climate change – and we now need to see what this means in practice. Today’s strategy builds on the 10-point plan, the energy white paper and a number of strategies that have been published in recent months, outlining what is needed to deliver a net zero future.”

He added: “Now the focus needs to be on implementation and investment in infrastructure and technologies. We’re at a critical stage in the journey where net zero is possible with the technologies and opportunities we have today and, in order to deliver on this, we have to accelerate and ramp up efforts to deploy long-term solutions at scale.”

Energy UK’s CEO, Emma Pinchbeck, said: “The energy industry has led the way in reducing emissions in the UK - rapidly expanding our sources of clean power and investing billions every year. We will play a central role in the drive to reach Net Zero and by committing to have a decarbonised power system in place in the 2030s, our sector will also be providing the clean power needed to transform other sectors like housing and transport.

The energy industry has shown what is possible with the right policies in place and is ready to invest further helping create jobs and growth across the country.”