Wind, hydrogen, no demolitions: how next PM can put UK on net zero path – The Guardian
There is little mention of Boris Johnson’s “green industrial revolution” on the campaign trail of the two Conservative party leadership candidates.
Maybe it’s not surprising when Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are focused on formulating plans to deal with the more immediate energy crisis. That said, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are pressing ahead with announcing the investments they would make to achieve net zero by 2050.
A new prime minister could do worse than crack on with some of the plans in Johnson’s 10-point programme, announced to great fanfare in 2020. The plans are behind schedule and several of the ideas are considered by experts to be dead ends.
The CBI has accused the government of relying too heavily on private-sector investment, which it blames for Britain falling behind Europe and the US. The Biden administration is poised to pass a near $370bn bill to promote climate-friendly infrastructure. Johnson’s 10-point plan committed the government to spending £12bn. The government’s own adviser, the Climate Change Committee, said the money on offer needed to be closer to £50bn to make a difference.
Nevertheless, piecing together the ideas and investment needed to create a zero-carbon economy is achievable and could create more sustainable jobs, if the new regime can decide what it wants to do.
The offshore wind industry has put the UK in the front rank of countries managing the switch away from fossil fuels. More arrays in the sea are planned on the east and west coast.
Official figures show that meeting net zero targets would mean cutting gas use by 65% by 2035, and almost 100% by 2050. At the moment gas accounts for about 90% of home heating and 40% of electricity generation. At 37%, heating accounts for the largest proportion of UK greenhouse gas emissions.
Kwasi Kwarteng, a chief ally of Truss’s, said this year he would expand onshore wind, helping speed up the transition. While the UK has only limited capacity to make wind turbines, and the number of jobs created by businesses servicing windfarms is small in relation to the size of the investment, the employment is highly skilled and expert firms could export their knowhow.
Sunak said at a recent hustings that regulations governing offshore wind, rooftop solar and nuclear would be overhauled to scale up supply, despite the critics arguing that solar is held back by a lack of power storage facilities and all renewables are at the mercy of an electricity grid in desperate need of an upgrade to cope with a coal, oil and gas-free world.
The UK’s ambition for hydrogen production was recently doubled to 10 gigawatts by 2030. Green hydrogen is produced by using renewable electricity to drive an electrolyser that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The gas is burned to produce power, emitting only water vapour and warm air, and no greenhouse gases. A favourite of the Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen, hydrogen is also seen as the green fuel of the future by the car company Toyota and the Spanish energy firm Iberdrola, which owns Europe’s largest production site for green hydrogen for industrial use, at Puertollano in Spain.
Iberdrola’s subsidiary Scottish Power plans to use government subsidies to build a 100 megawatt plant at Felixstowe to …….
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