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Prime Minister’s 10-Point Plan for a green industrial revolution greeted with a mixed response

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The British Government has today set out a 10-point plan for establishing a green industrial revolution in the UK, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which the government estimates will create and support up to 250,000 jobs, but not everyone is happy.
Prime Minister’s 10-Point Plan for a green industrial revolution greeted with a mixed response
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Covering clean energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies, the Prime Minister’s blueprint aims to allow the UK to forge ahead with eradicating its contribution to climate change by 2050, particularly crucial in the run up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year.

The plan – which is part of the PM’s mission to level up across the country - will mobilise £12 billion of government investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs in the UK, and spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030.

At the centre of the PM’s blueprint are the UK’s industrial heartlands, including in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, Scotland and Wales, which will drive forward the green industrial revolution and build green jobs and industries of the future.

The Prime Minister’s ten points, which are built around the UK’s strengths, are:

Offshore wind: Producing enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we produce to 40 GW by 2030, supporting up to 60,000 jobs.

Hydrogen: Working with industry aiming to generate 5 GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.

Nuclear: Advancing nuclear as a clean energy source, across large scale nuclear and developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors, which could support 10,000 jobs.

Electric vehicles: Backing our world-leading car manufacturing bases including in the West Midlands, North East and North Wales to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and transforming our national infrastructure to better support electric vehicles.

Public transport, cycling and walking: Making cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and investing in zero-emission public transport of the future.

Jet Zero and greener maritime: Supporting difficult-to-decarbonise industries to become greener through research projects for zero-emission planes and ships.

Homes and public buildings: Making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.

Carbon capture: Becoming a world-leader in technology to capture and store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to all emissions of the industrial Humber today.

Nature: Protecting and restoring our natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs.

Innovation and finance: Developing the cutting-edge technologies needed to reach these new energy ambitions and make the City of London the global centre of green finance.

“Although this year has taken a very different path to the one we expected, I haven’t lost sight of our ambitious plans to level up across the country” said the Prime Minister. “My Ten Point Plan will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050. Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines of Scotland and the North East, propelled by the electric vehicles made in the Midlands and advanced by the latest technologies developed in Wales, so we can look ahead to a more prosperous, greener future”.

To deliver on six points of the plan, the Prime Minister has announced new investment, including:

Carbon capture: To revitalise the birthplaces of the first industrial revolution, the UK will be at the global forefront of carbon capture, usage and storage technology, benefiting regions with industries that are particularly difficult to decarbonise.

An extra £200 million of new funding to create two carbon capture clusters by the mid-2020s, with another two set to be created by 2030. This increased the total invested to £1 billion, helping to support 50,000 jobs, potentially in areas such as the Humber, Teesside, Merseyside, Grangemouth and Port Talbot.

Hydrogen: Up to £500 million, including for trialling homes using hydrogen for heating and cooking, starting with a Hydrogen Neighbourhood in 2023, moving to a Hydrogen Village by 2025, with an aim for a Hydrogen Town – equivalent to tens of thousands of homes – before the end of the decade. Of this funding, £240 million will go into new hydrogen production facilities.

Nuclear: £525 million to help develop large and smaller-scale nuclear plants, and research and develop new advanced modular reactors.

Electric vehicles: Following extensive consultation with car manufacturers and sellers, the Prime Minister has confirmed that the UK will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, ten years earlier than planned. However we will allow the sale of hybrid cars and vans that can drive a significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe until 2035.

The UK car industry already manufactures a significant proportion of electric vehicles in Europe, including one of the most popular models in the world.

To support this acceleration, the Prime Minister has announced:

£1.3 billion to accelerate the rollout of chargepoints for electric vehicles in homes, streets and on motorways across England, so people can more easily and conveniently charge their cars.

£582 million in grants for those buying zero or ultra-low emission vehicles to make them cheaper to buy and incentivise more people to make the transition.

Nearly £500 million to be spent in the next four years for the development and mass-scale production of electric vehicle batteries, as part of our commitment to provide up to £1 billion, boosting international investment into our strong manufacturing bases including in the Midlands and North East.

This will help protect and create thousands of new jobs, particularly in the Midlands, North East, and North Wales.

We will also launch a consultation on the phase out of new diesel HGVs to put the UK in the vanguard of zero emission freight. No date has been set yet.

Homes and public buildings: £1 billion next year into making new and existing homes and public buildings more efficient, extending the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme by a year and making public sector buildings greener and cutting bills for hospitals and schools, as part of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

Greener maritime: £20 million for a competition to develop clean maritime technology, such as feasibility studies on key sites, including Orkney and Teesside.

This follows plans to make the UK the world leader in clean wind energy, and plans for greater protections for England’s iconic landscapes and the creation of new national parks, as set out by the Prime Minister over the last few weeks.

Other key parts of the plan will be driven forward by significant investment set out over the last year, including the £1 billion energy innovation fund to stay ahead of the latest technologies needed to reach new energy targets, £5 billion for alternative greener ways of travel including cycling, walking, and buses, and £5.2 billion to create for new flood and coastal defences in England by 2027.

The new commitments backed by government funding are intended to send a clear signal to industries across the British economy to invest in the UK. The Prime Minister will support the plan even further by hosting a virtual roundtable with green investors to set out the plan and incentivise further private sector investment.

The plan is aimed at marking the beginning of the UK’s path to net zero, with further plans to reduce emissions whilst creating jobs to follow over the next year in the run up to the international COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year.

There was some disappointment, for example by the Green Party especially, that the plan promotes nuclear energy, with the party describing the plan as “woeful” in the face of the climate emergency. 

“If PM thinks this is an adequate response to climate & nature crises, he’s not studied them hard enough” tweeted Britain’s sole Green MP, Caroline Lucas, pointing out the funding provided for the plan is a fraction of that provided for the government’s £27 billion road building plan.

Elsewhere, the reception to the plan has been more mixed.

Rachel Eyres, Business Unit Director Energy & Utilities at Expleo said that Boris’s 10 point ‘green recovery’ plan is a gamechanger for the planet – particularly the focus on how we heat our homes and Offshore wind – both of which are absolutely vital for reducing carbon emissions. But strengthening our capabilities in this area won’t be easy.

“As well as the obvious logistical challenges with replacing gas boilers inside people’s homes with heat pumps, there are also challenges with introducing hydrogen into the gas network” Ms Eyres said. “When incorporating a new gas into our system we need to be able to monitor and track its performance.  This will require an increased use of IoT devices and new field technologies, better data and analytic capabilities – an ‘internet of pipes’ if you will.  So, despite the virtues of hydrogen, the grid is going to need to undergo an immensely complicated digital upgrade before we’re ready to reap its benefits.

With Offshore wind, the obstacles again hinge around infrastructure. Offshore wind connects into electricity network, but the current system is just not yet sophisticated enough to handle the characteristics of an increase in this type of generation. Just look at the problems caused by the Hornsey 1 outage last year - the grid is already having to plan to manage things differently because of this error, and with more offshore wind the risks will only increase.

It’s important we learn from lessons like this, and start transitioning to a smart, flexible grid, that’s actively managed, as soon as possible, so we can learn to live with a less predictable, bidirectional power system whilst also keeping the lights on”.

Robert Buckley, Head of Retail and Relationship Development at Cornwall Insight, said that the energy industry and its customers have desperately needed clarity on how the government intends to meet its net zero goal and that the Prime Minister’s announcement lays the scene for some big industry changes.

“Now that the Prime Minister has set his agenda, the energy sector has a genuine opportunity to take control of its low-carbon future” Mr Buckley said. “This is the moment that the UK energy policy has been formally co-opted to the energy agenda and lays down the marker for the decades ahead. The 10-point plan sets the high-level principles, and the Energy White Paper and the net zero spending review will help add flesh to the bones. There is no doubt that this is an ambitious plan which should be welcomed. However, there needs to be questions asked over whether the underlying spending commitment is enough to deliver the desired outcome of net zero by 2050. The outlined plans to make the City of London the global centre for green finance through our sovereign bond, carbon offset markets and disclosure requirements, could be very significant in delivering required capital. The long-awaited Energy White Paper will be the next landing stage for a coherent strategy for the energy sector for the decades ahead.”

The Solar Trade Association (STA) expressed disappointment that, despite being the most cost-effective electricity generating technology for the foreseeable future according to the Government’s own forecasts, solar was noticeably absent from the Prime Minister’s announcement, which is largely a repackaging of policies already announced earlier this year.

However, while the Government has yet to make its ambitions for UK solar clear there is lively activity taking place in other parts of the public sector. For instance, the City of London has today announced a new 15-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with developer Voltalia, which will see a 50 MW solar park built in Dorset to supply the City with clean power.

“It is disappointing that Number 10 has yet to grasp the opportunity presented by solar in the UK” said STA Chief Executive Chris Hewett said. “Not only is it set to be the cheapest power source for years to come, it also provides good jobs and business opportunities up and down the country. Whilst the Prime Minister might have a blind spot for solar, decisions in the market are likely to outpace his thinking. Today the City of London signed a 15-year deal to fund a new solar park, residential solar installations have already bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, all major utilities are expanding their solar ambitions and costs continue to fall. Delivering net-zero is now as much about economics as it is policy.”

Solar continues to be the UK’s most popular energy technology, and more than 3 GW of projects in the planning pipeline are ready for development.

The STA is calling on the Government to pledge a target of 40 GW of solar by 2030, triple today’s capacity, to support a green recovery and the transition to a net zero economy.

The BVRLA, the UK trade body for companies engaged in vehicle rental, leasing and fleet management, welcomed the Government’s decision in taking a phased approach to ending the sale of petrol and diesel car and vans but warns that setting dates is only the start of the process.

The association’s members own and operate over five million cars, vans and trucks and are responsible for around half of all new vehicle registrations. All of them are committed to decarbonising, but some face a much harder challenge than others. Many fleet operators are unable to source appropriate electric vehicles for their needs while others have a business model that struggles to absorb the additional cost and charging constraints of running EVs.

“2030 is an extremely aggressive phase-out target, but one that will be embraced by many drivers and fleet operators” said BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney. “The 2035 extension for plug-in and full hybrids provides an essential lifeline for those facing a greater zero-emission challenge. Vehicle rental companies and van fleet operators will be very relieved to have this additional breathing space but will need clarity on exactly what types of hybrid are in scope. Setting these phase-out dates is just the start of the journey, now the Government needs to create the supportive environment that will enable fleets and motorists to step up to the challenge of decarbonising road transport. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be cheap.”

The BVRLA believes that there are three support areas that the Government must focus on:

First, the Government needs to maintain a set of powerful tax incentives and grants that will drive demand across all segments of the UK fleet and retail automotive market. Research produced for the BVRLA by Cambridge Econometrics estimates that this stimulus package could cost up to £95 billion.

Secondly, electric vehicles are in high demand across the globe. The Government must ensure that the UK remains an attractive market for OEMs to sell their products.

Finally, the UK needs a comprehensive strategy on charging infrastructure. This must include an adequate supply of affordable, accessible and reliable public charge points and incentives to unlock private sector investment. EV infrastructure rollout should not be held back by arguments about who pays for upgrading the local electricity network and how this work is prioritised. The Government has announced £1.3 billion in funding to accelerate the roll-out of charge points across the UK, but recent research produced for the SMMT suggests that £16.7 billion needs to be spent on public charging infrastructure alone.

For additional information:

Expleo

Cornwall Insight

BVRLA

Solar Trade Association (STA)

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