By Nathan Bennett, Head of Public Affairs at RenewableUK
Since the Prime Minister announced the Government’s new headline commitment to the Sixth Carbon Budget – or cutting our CO2 emissions by 78% by 2035, the media has been awash with calls for clarity on how we’ll achieve it. Indeed, for those of us working in the power sector, this means ensuring we can generate 100% of our electricity from clean power by 2035, as demand for electricity itself increases by around 50% due to the electrification of transport and other sectors.
The recommendations we’re outlining in our ‘Raising the Bar’ report today won’t just set out the clean energy generation pathway ahead, building on our 40GW by 2030 offshore wind target, but will also ensure we maximise the economic and social benefits of doing so. They are:
30GW onshore wind target by 2030
5GW minimum green hydrogen target by 2030
2GW floating wind target by 2030
1GW target for marine energy
A ‘Just Transition Strategy’
We want to be clear about the international significance of each of our recommendations. This is about more than just the UK’s credibility on tackling climate change in its broadest terms. We know that if the UK increases its 2030 target for floating wind from 1GW to 2GW, with a longer term 16GW target for 2040 – this will build confidence in countries like Japan, Brazil and South Africa, who can see the implications this will have for speeding cost reduction. We have it in our gift, as the world leaders in wave and tidal stream, to commit to a 1GW target for marine energy which would signal to the world that we’re committed to making those technologies cost competitive with nuclear energy – opening up a whole new addition to the future generation mixes of countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia.
What’s more it is within our economic interest to set these targets. We know we’re going to continue to build new onshore wind farms over the course of the next decade to reach net zero – it’s why we’re running new Contract for Difference auctions for onshore wind this year, and why continued development is mentioned in the Energy White Paper. But being clear about the volume we’re going to generate – 30GW by 2030 – gives the industry confidence about the long-term pipeline in the UK, which will boost investment in the supply chain. We’ve seen in offshore wind, through the announcement of a new GE factory in Teesside, that when the Government sets a long term target and an activist approach to industrial strategy, we can boost supply chain growth and jobs in the UK. Let’s take this approach to onshore wind.
Maximising the economic benefits of onshore wind starts with setting the kind of 2030 target we’re encouraging other countries around the world to make too. Don’t forget, although offshore wind is increasingly important, due to their geographies of a great many countries, wind energy also means onshore wind farms. The majority of global wind development is onshore and will continue to be for some time. The UK needs to lead by example and set its own 2030 onshore wind target.
There are huge economic prizes to be won by being at the forefront of clean technology development. We know green hydrogen is going to play an increasing role in the decarbonisation of heat, industry and transport. We know that costs are falling rapidly, it will be cost competitive with blue hydrogen around the turn of the decade, and the UK – through projects like Gigastack in the Humber and companies like ITM Power producing electrolysers – stands at the forefront of global development. Let’s set an ambitious target of at least 5GW of green hydrogen by 2030 in the upcoming hydrogen strategy, with the demand-side policies to support it, to keep the UK as a go-to place for investment and industry. Similarly, let’s grasp our lead in developing floating wind and marine energy, and set a Just Transition strategy to ensure the opportunity to utilise the industry to level-up the economy and change the lives of people across the UK isn’t missed too.
Finally, this report is not intended to be a catch-all guide to the actions Government needs to take to accelerate power decarbonisation and achieve net zero. Were it to be, reforming the remit of Ofgem to align it with the Government’s target of net zero would have been our first recommendation. This report draws from the conversations industry is having with Government’s around the world. We believe these are commitments which would genuinely increase confidence in clean technologies and drive ambition in development. What’s more, it’s in our economic self-interest to do so.