Clean Growth Strategy: UK outlines plans to cut our energy bills and get us all driving electric cars

At an event in Olympic Park, the UK business and energy secretary Greg Clark has officially released the government’s Clean Growth Strategy.

Clean Growth Strategy: UK outlines plans to cut our energy bills and get us all driving electric cars

It outlines the UK’s plans to reduce our reliance on carbon and promote renewable and sustainable energy sources to help grow the UK economy.

According to the plans, carbon emissions in the UK have fallen and national income has “risen faster and further” than any other nation in the G7, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States. In particular, it quotes that since 1990, emissions have dropped by 42% while the economy has grown by 67%.

“The government’s strategy sets out how the whole country can benefit from low carbon economic opportunities through the creation of new technologies and new businesses, which creates jobs and prosperity across the UK, while meeting our ambitious national targets to tackle climate change,” added Clark.

The main measures set out in the strategy that include funding through the BEIS Energy Innovation Programme are:

  • up to £10 million will be given for innovations that “provide low carbon heat in domestic and commercial buildings”
  • up to £10 million will be used to help improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings
  • an extra £14 million will be given to the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, including a new sixth fund
  • up to £20 million is being put into a Carbon Capture and Utilisation demonstration programme
  • up to £20 million will be used to demonstrate the “viability of switching to low carbon fuels for industry”
  • up to £20 million to support clean technology early stage funding

Below is more detail on these plans.

Clean Growth Strategy

Investing in “clean growth”

As part of the Clean Growth Strategy, the UK government will need to invest in the technologies and industries that will make the rest of the measures possible. The report specifically says it wants the UK to develop “world-leading green finance” capabilities. This will include setting up a Green Finance Taskforce that will make recommendations about where money should be spent in order to hit targets and meet budgets.

This will also include investing up to £20 million to support a new “clean technology early stage investment fund” aimed at finding the academics and startups working on solutions to solving our energy needs. The taskforce will work with mortgage lenders to create so-called “green mortgages” that favour more energy efficient properties, with the aim being that it will encourage landlords and builders to factor in energy-saving features to houses.

Making business and industry more energy efficient

The Clean Growth Strategy says it wants to develop a “package of measures” that will help businesses improve their energy productivity and efficiency, with a target of at least 20 per cent by 2030. This will include a review of current building regulations and fire safety rules. The government will then use the findings to consult on improving energy efficiency of new and existing commercial properties.

As part of this consultation, the Clean Growth Strategy could see voluntary building standards being introduced.

Elsewhere, the government wants to simplify the needs for businesses to measure and report on energy use; to help them work out where they can cut bills, and this will include businesses working with a new Industrial Energy Efficiency scheme.

Within this, the UK government wants to develop its carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) systems and work with partners to invest up to £100 million in such systems to drive down costs.

Reducing greenhouse gases

Under the wider, Clean Growth Strategy, the government said it wants to develop its strategic approach to cutting back on the production of greenhouse gases and the technologies need to do this. It plans to phase out the installation of “high carbon forms of fossil fuel heating” in new and existing businesses, taking them off the gas grid during the 2020s. This will additionally include recycling the heat produced in industrial processes that will cut business energy bills to benefit local communities.

Investing in innovative technologies

To push forward with renewable, sustainable and more futuristic energy sources, the Clean Growth Strategy aims to invest around £162 million of public funds in research as in Energy, Resource and Process efficiency. This will include up to £20 million to encourage switching to lower carbon fuels.

The government will invest a further £14 million through the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund to accelerate the development of clean and green energy technologies.

Making our homes more energy efficient

To improve how energy efficient UK homes are, the government aims to support around £3.6 billion of investment that will see millions of homes upgraded as part of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). This money will also extend support for home energy efficiency improvements until 2028.

All so-called “fuel poor homes” will be upgraded to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2030 and it wants as many homes as possible to be EPC Band C by 2035. This will include offering all households the opportunity to have a smart meter to help them save energy by the end of 2020.

Looking even further ahead, the government plans to develop a long-term plan to improve the energy standards of privately rented homes, with the aim of similarly upgrading as many as possible to EPC Band C by 2030, as well as investigating how social housing can meet such standards over this same period.

Rolling out low-carbon heating

The UK government plans to build and extend “heat networks” across the country and improve standards on the 1.2 million new boilers installed every year in England. In particular, this will require installations of control devices to help people save energy (although the plan didn’t specify what these control devices would be or which company would supply them).

The report also reveals how the government plans to invest in low-carbon heating by reforming the Renewable Heat Incentive, spending £4.5 billion to support the development of next-level, low carbon heat technologies in homes and businesses between 2016 and 2021.

Shifting to low carbon transport

As outlined in its 98-page air quality plan, Britain’s environment ministry is proposing a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars across the country from 2040, to coincide with when all vehicles are required to be fully electric. It will spend £1 billion to support the take-up of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEV), including helping people pay for electric cars and by “developing one of the best electric vehicle charging networks in the world.”

The government plans to do this by investing £80 million, alongside £15 million from Highways England, to support the roll out of charging infrastructure. It will take new powers under the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill to set requirements for charging points. It will also help support the roll out of low emission taxis and buses by investing £50 million in the Plug-in Taxi programme – which gives taxi drivers up to £7,500
off the price of a new ULEV taxi – and offer £14 million to support 10 (unnamed) local areas to deliver dedicated charge points for taxis.

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A further £100 million will be provided for retrofitting and building low emission buses in England and Wales, working with industry as it develops an Automotive Sector Deal to help transition to zero emission vehicles, and £1.2 billion will be made available to “make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys.” The UK government will additionally shift freight from road to rail, which will include using low emission rail freight for deliveries into towns and cities areas, with zero emission last-mile deliveries.

Elsewhere, the UK wants to position itself at the forefront of research, development and demonstration of connected and autonomous cars by establishing the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, funded by a £250 million investment to be matched by industry.

This part of the Clean Grwoth Strategy also touched on the recent launch of the government’s Faraday Challenge project which will fund a series of competitions over the next four years designed to boost the research and development of expertise in battery technology.

Delivering “clean, smart, flexible” power

The Clean Growth Strategy wants to reduce bills costs for households and businesses by implementing a “smart systems plan” that will help people use energy in different ways (from giving energy back to the grid to being able to split the source more flexibly), which the report believes could unlock savings of up to £40 billion to 2050. To do this, the government will work with Ofgem and the National Grid to create a more independent system operator set up to lower bills and increase competition in the sector. This will include publishing a draft bill to require Ofgem to impose a cap on standard variable and default tariffs across whole market, and through the phasing out coal to produce electricity by 2025.

By reducing our reliance on coal, the UK government is pushing ahead with its nuclear power plans, through its Hinkley Point C plant, and help make it easier for renewable technologies such as offshore wind farms to be set up through a £557 million investment.

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The report adds that further details on carbon prices for the 2020s will be set out in the Autumn 2017 Budget but will include investing around £900 million of public funds into smart technology and storage broken down into:

  • £265 million in smart systems to reduce the cost of electricity storage, advance innovative demand response technologies and develop new ways of balancing the grid
  • £460 million in nuclear to support work in areas including future nuclear fuels, new nuclear manufacturing techniques, recycling and reprocessing, and advanced reactor design
  • £177 million to further reduce the cost of renewables, including innovation in offshore wind turbine blade technology and foundations

As we leave the EU, the government conituned that it plans to design a new system to support farmers and agriculture to help them be more environmentally friendly, and address climate change more directly through the planting of a new network of forests in England, new woodland on farmland, and larger-scale woodland and forests across the UK. This will also increase the amount of UK timber used in construction.

    You can read the full strategy here and we’ll update this piece as we pick through the 162-page paper.

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