Net zero 2050

Following the announcement of the UK’s 10-point ‘green recovery’ plan, Fisher German’s head of sustainable energy Darren Edwards discusses how it is a much needed boost for tackling emissions in homes, industry and on the road, but ultimately more detail must follow on how the highly ambitious targets will be delivered.

The announcement regarding investment into the UK’s green infrastructure offers renewed hope for the industry and is a positive step towards a much anticipated and much needed green recovery. It is positive to see that the government is beginning to grasp the need for an integrated approach to tackling the climate challenge.

Bringing forward the pledge to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 10 years to 2030 will be a major challenge, but one which will realise the benefits of not just carbon savings, but improvements in air quality and the creation of new jobs. Both property and business owners will need to look at how to integrate EV charging infrastructure and consider the impact that the changing nature of transport will have in the coming years.

The 12 month extension of the Green Homes Grant to March 2022 with extra funding for home insulation and broader energy efficiency measures is a positive for landlords, although more needs to be done by scheme organisers to make the grants more accessible and increase the number of registered installers. The challenge of tackling existing housing stock is substantial and a costly one for Fisher German’s many rural landed estates.

Elsewhere in the announcement, the funding for hydrogen innovation is an exciting development which offers the potential for the decarbonisation of heating and transport and also provides a means of making good use of excess power generation. Fisher German’s planning team has already had success in gaining consent for a green hydrogen electrolyser on behalf of a client, and this is an area we look forward to engaging in further. We see great potential not only for the technology and fuel, but also our clients.

Boris Johnson’s previously announced pledge to “make the UK the Saudi Arabia of wind” by 2030 was reiterated in the plan, requiring a quadrupling of current wind power capacity to 40GW. Currently it is more expensive to produce electricity from offshore turbines than it is from onshore turbines and solar PV, and while the announcement of the 10-point plan will certainly trigger more investment in the offshore sector and production costs will undoubtedly fall, it is a shame that the value of onshore renewable energy was overlooked.

Solar PV and onshore wind are among the UK’s cheapest sources of power which, deployed sensibly, have a multitude of benefits - not least being easier to manage and maintain. Onshore wind opportunities, however, remain hampered by adverse planning policy which is an area which government should seek to address, as plans to electrify transport and domestic heating will result in an increased need for green electricity and we cannot rely on offshore wind alone for this.

The investment of £525m towards new 'next generation' nuclear power may seem like a sizeable sum. However, to put this into perspective, development costs for Hinkley Point C are expected to exceed £20 billion with the resulting power costing consumers more than double what they will pay for electricity from renewable sources. This investment is therefore likely to prove little more than a drop in the ocean and would be better spent elsewhere.

Although the 10-point plan puts the UK on the right path to deliver net zero by 2050, there is cause to question whether enough is being done and it is clear that there are still challenges ahead. We look forward to more detail on how the plans will be delivered in the Energy White Paper. Although well overdue by more than 12 months, we now expect this in the coming weeks.