The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said the UK must set a 2050 net-zero emissions target to remain in line with the Paris Agreement and stop contributing to global warming – but what does the energy sector think of the announcement?
Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary for Energy, said the report has far-reaching implications for every home and business across the country.
He added: “The government itself and Parliament must now take direct responsibility for the economic and industrial consequences of the future political decisions that are required. This must happen before, for example, we maroon new homes off of the gas grid when a switch to hydrogen is both logical and a recommendation from the CCC Report.”
Government should grab opportunity with both hands
Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association (REA), said: “This report blazes a trail for the UK to assert itself as a leader in socially responsible new industries and the government should grab it with both hands.”
She agreed with the report’s conclusion that the solution to net-zero emissions by 2050 lies in the mass deployment of renewable technologies and said this must be supported by “robust, long-term and investible policies”.
The REA boss added: “A policy gap, however, now exists to bring forward new power generation technologies in the 2020’s. Direction is required from government in relation to heat and carbon capture and storage. In transport, more can be done to decarbonise the fuel mix, facilitate electric vehicle deployment and ensure strategic charging infrastructure is delivered. Gas and electricity networks also need to be fully on board with this transition and their regulated profit base should reflect progress on decarbonisation.”
No silver bullet to reaching net-zero
David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association noted his organisation backed the CCC’s advice that low carbon hydrogen will be an absolute necessity within our energy system and echoed its calls for carbon capture, storage and usage technology to be deployed at scale and quickly.
He said: “There will be no silver bullet to reaching net zero, with energy networks leading innovation needed across major sectors of the economy including heating, power and transportation. Given the vital role that gas networks have to play in decarbonising heat, we believe the public should be allowed to benefit from new technologies such as smart hybrid heating systems and that new homes should continue to be connected to the gas grid. Already, homes right across the UK are receiving low-carbon green gas, with the government committed to increasing this.
“To ensure the networks can help deliver this while keeping costs low for the public, our policy and regulatory framework must be closely aligned.”
Vulnerable people can be the first to benefit
The suggestion from Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of National Energy Action (NEA), was that the move to net-zero can be of particular benefit to those worst off in UK society.
He announced: “We agree with the Committee; ending fuel poverty and ambition for our climate are indivisible, not inimical. There is now a huge opportunity for the UK Government, devolved nations, industry and campaigners to demonstrate how the most vulnerable people in our society can be the first to benefit from this necessary transition.”
Government can no longer ‘faff around’
John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said: “The CCC has clearly thrown down the gauntlet to the government over delivering increased ambition.
“The Committee has spelled out that if we want to maintain our credibility and any leadership on climate then the government can no longer faff around with promises and half measures. It needs to have plausible, deliverable plans.”
He added the government’s “business as usual, steady-as-she-goes approach” will not suffice.
Decentralised energy is key
“We need an energy system that reduces energy waste, is more flexible, is customer focussed and can reuse waste heat. Decentralised energy does all those things and more.”
That’s the verdict from Director of the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE), Dr Tim Rotheray, who said: “Decentralised energy can deliver at scale and can compete with the traditional outdated model of only using large scale energy generators. A more decentralised energy system will make the UK’s homes and businesses more carbon efficient, smarter by putting the customer in control, enabling households to save hundreds of pounds every year, whilst also making them more comfortable.”
UK could reach net-zero emissions before 2050
Lawrence Slade, Energy UK’s CEO, was particularly optimistic in his response to the new report, stating: “Our sector has already significantly reduced its emissions (56%) since the Climate Change Act passed in 2008 and we believe that with sufficient funding and policy frameworks supporting low carbon technologies, the power sector could reach net-zero emissions before that date.”
Worse odds than Russian roulette
Aaron Kiely, Climate Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, voiced concern about the odds of success and the urgency of delivery.
He said: “The world’s scientists have told us that every additional half-degree of warming really matters. A target that slashes the UK’s emissions and therefore our overall contribution to climate change, is desperately needed.
“While this is a massive body of important and credible work, it needs to inject more urgency. A roughly fifty-fifty chance of exceeding 1.5°C is worse odds than Russian roulette.”
Mr Kiely stressed that every government around the world should aim to get to net-zero as soon as possible.
Green gas is the way forward
Mike Foster, CEO, the Energy and Utilities Alliance said; “The gas boiler is not the enemy in the fight against climate change but an ally. It’s the use of methane that releases carbon and that needs to be phased out. Using low or zero carbon gas in our homes – such as biomethane or hydrogen – will keep our homes warm; meet our cooking needs and keep bills down, as well as saving the planet.”
He added: “The gas infrastructure is already in place for nearly nine out of 10 homes, through our world-leading gas network. What government should do is to legislate for Green Gas compatible boilers, to replace existing stock. This can then be phased in over a number of years, delivering the carbon reductions we need to make without any major disruption to peoples’ lives.”