Long-delayed BEIS strategy gets fairly positive reception

The government has established power and smart systems innovation as a major part of its long-delayed Clean Growth Strategy (CGS).

The 165-page CGS, which has been delayed for over a year,  opens the door to further renewable energy generation and, with the exception of solar, the plan attempts to build on the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) support on energy storage and other connected technologies.

The plan earmarks a number of investments, including up to £10m for innovations that provide low carbon heat in domestic and commercial buildings, up to £10m for the improvement of energy efficiency in existing buildings and an extra £14m for the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, including a new sixth fund. 

The document also outlines the BEIS’ intention of providing up to £20 million in a Carbon Capture and Utilisation demonstration programme, up to £20 million to demonstrate the viability of switching to low carbon fuels for industry and up to £20 million to support clean technology early stage funding.

Also included in the paper are plans to “develop a package of measures” to support businesses to improve their energy productivity by at least 20 per cent by 2030, as well as establishing an Industrial Energy Efficiency scheme to help large companies install measures to cut their energy use and their bills.

The BEIS are also keen to demonstrate international leadership in carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS), by “collaborating with global partners” and investing up to £100m in leading edge CCUS and industrial innovation to drive down costs.

At least £70 million is expected to be invested over the next five years to support innovation in energy storage, demand side response (DSR) and other smart energy techs.

Reaction to the plan has been largely positive; however there are still some reservations as to whether the Government is doing enough to promote a wide array of innovations in the energy sector.

John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, believes that the strategy is in on the right track but states that the country needs a more ambitious destination.

“Our small country could be a big power on low carbon solutions if we keep up the momentum, especially on energy efficiency and electric vehicles,” he said.

“The government’s punt on offshore wind has already paid off in spectacular style, and proves that clean technology, ambitious developers and government support are a winning combination.”

Energy Institute CEO Louise Kingham claims that the plan breathes new life into decarbonising the UK and the skills that will make it happen.
“Taking energy efficiency seriously in homes, businesses and industry will cut emissions, bring down bills and increase productivity more effectively than anything else,” she said

“Putting CCS back at the table and action to tackle emissions from heat, alongside renewables, nuclear and electric vehicles make this a credible plan.

“But meeting the UK’s carbon targets is ultimately a numbers game and the real proof will be in the delivery.”

Praise for the new plan has not been universal, however, with Gareth Redmond-King, Head of Energy and Climate at WWF, arguing that the “details fall short of what we need to lead the UK to a green and prosperous future.”

“The news on improving homes is a victory for owners, renters and landlords; and more money for off-shore wind - the cheapest form of generation - is great news.  But overall the UK Government admits that it will miss most of its targets,” he explained.

“They are not delivering the emissions reductions needed in the next decade, relying instead on past success to offset missed targets with the rapid power decarbonisation that we’ve seen to date.  This risks passing on a worse situation to the next generation.

“The UK Government has much more work to do in putting forward credible policies to close a carbon gap of nearly 10 per cent by 2032.

“We have been a global climate leader, but if we set out plans that don’t meet our own targets to meet the global threat of climate change, then we will have so much further to go to meet the more ambitious international ones agreed in Paris.”

The Solar Trade Association (STA) have also criticised the Government strategy for the limited amount of early opportunities afforded to the technology and the ongoing delay in announcing new measures to help boost the solar industry.

STA Policy Manager Chris Hewett says: “It seems extraordinary that when a technology as vital to the world's future as solar is asking, not for any new public support, but for simply a level playing field with other technologies that the Government is not moving to respond.

“Whether it is tax breaks for fossil fuels, a continued emphasis on big centralised power over local power, or access to auctions - solar is not being treated fairly.

“The British solar industry is being artificially held back by the Government and that doesn't help consumers, innovation or local leadership.
 
“We will be looking to the Autumn Statement for the measures we need urgently to level the playing field for solar power.”

The plan reaffirms the Government’s commitment to phase out the use of unabated coal to produce electricity by 2025. It also outlines a proposal to provide up to half a billion pounds for further Contract for Difference auctions for less established technologies, such as offshore wind, with the next one planned for spring 2019.

Furthermore, the strategy explains how the Government hope to work with industry as they develop an ambitious Sector Deal for offshore wind, which could result in 10GW of new capacity, with the opportunity for additional deployment if this is cost effective, built in the 2020s.

Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association, believes the language, ambition and recommitment from Government to lower emissions are welcome, as is the recognition that decarbonisation and economic growth are not mutually exclusive, but are in fact linked in the coming decades.
 
“The plan focuses on areas that have not been given a huge amount of time or thought to previously in government, such as industrial efficiency or the built environment, both of which are crucial and can be a win-win,” she said.
 
“However, for many of our members they will see very little substance in this plan and we will have to ensure we are pushing government for how they intend to address the big issues of adding low-carbon generation, greening our heat system, cleaning our transport and leading the decentralisation revolution that will lead to a cheaper and low-carbon future.”

David Smith, CEO of the Energy Networks Association, added: “We welcome many of the proposals and acknowledgement of the important role of network innovation in meeting our climate change targets.

“But there needs to be far greater recognition that the strategic use of our energy networks in a joined-up way is the quickest and cheapest way to utilise new technologies.

“The energy efficiency call for evidence is welcome. Customer engagement is key to delivering domestic measures and Network Operators lead the energy sector in terms of customer satisfaction levels. They have proven their potential to deliver through existing fuel poverty schemes.”

In a sign that government is looking at emerging technologies, £20m of this has been earmarked for vehicle-to-grid (V2G). This will be used to explore how the rapidly expanding fleet of electric vehicles could be used to provide network flexibility and system balancing; a role currently occupied by more traditional energy storage and DSR technologies.

This will help address the planned increase in EVs, which BEIS has said it will spend £1bn in driving. However, the CGS states that if battery prices continue to fall “there will be less need for government subsidies for new vehicles in the future”.

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