I continue to believe that there are 3 key strands to the climate change debate: security, affordability, environmental impacts. I am of the opinion the sooner we move to an energy self-sufficient country the better – the security of our nation would be greatly improved, especially now mindful of the current geopolitical events playing out.
These changes will only succeed if the financial barriers are as low as possible and I am keeping a keen interest across the progress of many sectors working to secure the green economic revolution and that includes automotive development given our proud manufacturing history in the Midlands.
I am pleased that the UK, which is continuing to play a world-leading role in tackling climate change, was the first G7 country to legislate to achieve net zero by 2050, and we are decarbonising faster than any G20 country, while also growing the economy.
The Prime Minister set out a Ten Point Plan which lays the blueprint for how we will a green industrial revolution. The plan will mobilise £12 billion of Government investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs in the UK, and spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030.
Locally, I have been working with the Midlands Engine to increase recognition of their own plan for Green Growth – an important document for our region about how to achieve Government aims. You can read more here: https://www.midlandsengine.org/ten-point-plan-for-green-growth/
I was pleased to raise this plan in Parliament and have continually followed up with meetings and a visit from the Minister for Transport.
You can find out more here: https://www.drlukeevans.org.uk/news/dr-luke-backs-planned-eco-boost-midlands
Cost of Living Pressures
Affordability is a crucial factor for me when considering our transition to the green economy and the climate change debate; I look forward to seeing further debate on this issue at Westminster. You may be interested to know that for the last couple of months or so, in addition to speaking to Ministers including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I have also spoken to the so called ‘big six’ energy providers as well as regulators. I have focused on energy prices, but I have also considered food prices and petrol prices, as well as other costs including broadband and mobile phone contracts. You can read further about my work via this weblink: https://www.drlukeevans.org.uk/news/support-cost-living. This is a work in progress.
The energy companies have responded to me highlighting the various work that they do with customers facing difficulties with gas and electricity bills; all very reassuring, but I want to be assured that these good intentions play out ‘on the ground.’ I am also minded of the affordability issue when it comes to transport. I have been monitoring the impact of petrol prices as well as raising various questions with Ministers. I want to be assured that the 5p fuel cut is passed on to drivers, and I am also looking at the relative pricing of petrol across the UK with representations to the Competition and Markets Authority. I am exploring the work of our local bodies such as MIRA in terms of their research and development to find long term alternatives to the combustion engine (see below in more detail.) It may seem that I am writing a lot of letters and raising a lot of questions, but I want to be sure that we ride though this cost of living crisis and move forward as a country to a prosperous future.
In light of high global energy prices, provoked by surging demand and Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine, the Prime Minister has been clear that it’s right we move away from dependence on Russian gas and increase our self-reliance for energy security. I strongly welcome the Government’s announcement that the UK will phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of this year, which makes up roughly eight per cent of UK demand. Further, while the proportion of gas we import from Russia is less than four per cent, I know that the Government is keen to end this altogether.
I welcome that the Government’s Energy Security Strategy sets out plans to accelerate the deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen, while supporting the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term – which could see 95 per cent of electricity being low carbon by 2030.
Recognising the importance of these fuels to our energy transition and energy security, and that producing gas domestically has a lower carbon footprint than importing, a licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects is planned to launch in Autumn.
I was encouraged that on 31 March 2021, the UK Government implemented its new, world leading policy to no longer provide new direct financial or promotional support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas. At the G7 Leader’s Summit in June, leaders agreed to phase out new direct government support for international carbon-intensive fossil fuel energy as soon as possible, and to end new direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021. At COP26, the Glasgow Climate Pact secured further agreements with 65 countries committed to phasing out the use of coal power.
The Government is working to decarbonise the UK's electricity by 2035; investing £160 million into offshore wind, supporting 60,000 jobs, with a new commitment to deliver 50GW of offshore wind by 2030 – more than enough to power every home in the UK – of which up to 5GW will come from floating offshore wind sites in deeper seas. This will be underpinned by new planning reforms to speed up approvals for new offshore wind farms.
The UK is already making good progress in decarbonising the power sector. Coal fuel used for electricity generation, which stood at 65.3 per cent in 1990, made up only 2.6 per cent in 2020. As a result, the UK went 2 months without coal fired electricity in 2020, the longest streak since 1990, with the intention to go coal free for 2024.
Consequently, in May 2021 onshore and offshore wind turbines generated nearly 50% of the electricity in Great Britain.
This is alongside the expansion of other low carbon energy sources, such as nuclear and renewables, which accounted for 56.3 per cent of fuel used for electricity generation in 2020, up from 22.2 per cent in 1990. A total of £30.7 billion has been spent on renewable electricity through the Renewable Obligations, Feed-in-Tariffs and Contracts for Difference (CfD) schemes. The CfD scheme is the main mechanism for supporting new large-scale renewable electricity generation projects in Great Britain.
The Energy Security Strategy will also see the acceleration of nuclear power, aiming to produce up to 24GW by 2050, which could mean delivering up to eight reactors, equivalent to one reactor a year instead of one a decade. My ministerial colleagues assure me that nuclear presents a safe, clean, and reliable source of power and I am encouraged that a new government body, Great British Nuclear, will be set up immediately to bring forward new projects, backed by substantial funding, including a £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund.
I know the Government is also looking to increase the UK’s current solar capacity, which could grow up to 5 times by 2035, and aims to double our ambition for low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030.
The Energy Security Strategy builds on the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, and, together with the Net Zero Strategy, is driving an unprecedented £100 billion of private sector investment into new British industries and will support 480,000 new clean jobs by the end of the decade.
Cleaner, more affordable, domestically produced energy will be key to boosting our long-term energy independence and prosperity, and I look forward to witnessing the Strategy's long-term benefits.
Decarbonising our buildings
Buildings are responsible for around 30 per cent of our national emissions, and I know the Government recognises that upgrading home energy performance is crucial if we are to meet net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the UK economy by 2050. Not only this, but ministers are clear that one of the principal ways in which we can tackle high energy prices in the long-term is to improve the energy efficiency of homes.
Decarbonising our homes is one of the Prime Minister’s priorities within his Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and I welcome the publication of the Heat and Buildings Strategy; making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, while also supporting 175,000 green skilled jobs by 2030 and 240,000 green skilled jobs by 2035 while delivering £6 billion additional GVA by 2030.
- By 2035, no new gas boilers will be sold. All new heating systems installed in UK homes will either use low-carbon technologies, such as electric heat pumps, or will support new technologies like hydrogen-ready boilers, in line with the natural replacement cycle, and once costs of low carbon alternatives have come down. This includes a new £450 million three-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme which will see households offered and grants of up to £5,000 for low-carbon heating systems, such as a heat pump, so they cost the same as a gas boiler now.
- The plan includes a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028. A £60 million Heat Pump Ready programme will help to support reaching this target and provide funding for pioneering heat pump technologies.
- £1 billion funding to make our schools, hospitals and homes more energy efficient.
- As included in the Clean Growth Strategy, the Government set out its aspiration for as many homes as possible to be Energy Performance Certificate Band C by 2035 where cost effective, affordable and practical, and to reach this standard by 2030 for fuel poor homes.
- The Government will invest over £4 billion of new funding for decarbonising heat and buildings from this year to 2025.
- In July 2020, £1 billion of funding was committed to a new Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) to upgrade public sector buildings, including schools and hospitals with a further £1.43 billion to be invested to 2024/25. The Heat and Building Strategy confirmed that the Government aims to reduce direct emissions from public sector buildings by 75 per cent against a 2017 baseline by the end of carbon budget 6.
- I am encouraged that £1.75 billion will be provided for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Scheme and Home Upgrade Grants
- The Government will work with industry and aim to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes.
- The UK will also become a world leader in carbon capture technology to store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030.
- At the Spring Statement 2022, the Government announced an extension to the VAT relief available for the installation of energy saving materials (ESMs) in homes. This will mean wind and water turbines will be added to the list of ESMs and the complex eligibility conditions will be removed. Moreover, this relief is also being increased further by introducing a zero rate on VAT for the installation of ESMs for the next 5 years. A typical family having roof top solar panels installed will save more than £1,000 in total on installation, and then £300 annually on their energy bills.
The Simple Energy Advice website helps consumers identify what financial support may be available to install energy efficiency measures, such as insulation: https://www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk/grants.
More locally, I know Hinckley and Rugby Building Society provide funding for eligible customers to carry out green home improvements to improve their EPC rating, including insulation. You can find out more here: Green mortgages | Hinckley & Rugby Building Society (hrbs.co.uk)
Wider still, I understand substantial work has been made in the following areas:
- The Midlands is leading the way in home heating with De Monfort University developing and evaluating heat pumps, in one of only four test sites across Europe.
- As part of the Smart Energy GB campaign, I am pleased all households should now have had the opportunity to have a smart metre installed at no cost, to measure and display the energy usage of the house to reduce energy waste and save money.
- From 2025 the Future Homes Standard will ensure an average home will produce at least 75% lower CO2 emissions and new homes will be ‘zero carbon ready’ - future proofed with low carbon heating and world leading levels of energy efficiency. No further retrofit work will be necessary to enable them to become zero carbon homes as the electricity grid continues to decarbonise.
- Work is underway to deliver a large village heated entirely on hydrogen, a first-of-a-kind globally.
The Government has been clear that it wants to give households, suppliers, installers and equipment manufacturers plenty of time to prepare for this transition.
I hope the above sets out that work is being done to improve the energy efficiency of our homes and buildings and to future proof new builds as part of a long-term strategy.
I am pleased the Government will be supporting the move to electric vehicles and away from petrol and diesel from 2030, with a £2.8 billion package. I am mindful of the automotive research and development that is taking place in Bosworth, as we seek to tackle the green revolution. I am in regular contact with companies such as MIRA and business support organisations such as the Midlands Engine to highlight the role of the Midlands to develop an alternative to the petrol car whether it is powered by electric or another substance. It is an important agenda. I was pleased to welcome the Minister for Transport, Trudy Harrison MP, to Horiba MIRA, to highlight the cutting-edge work on autonomous vehicles and demonstrating the site’s importance locally, nationally and internationally, as the UK’s own automotive “silicon valley”.
With the £1.3 billion to support the electronification of supply chains, including gigafactories for batteries, I am also focused on the importance of charging infrastructure and ensuring our rural community is not left behind. I have raised a number of Parliamentary questions regarding adequate charging provisions, electricity network and infrastructure, which you can read here: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions?SearchTerm=electric&DateFrom=27%2F11%2F2019&DateTo=31%2F07%2F2022&AnsweredFrom=&AnsweredTo=&House=Commons&MemberId=4781&Answered=Any&Expanded=True
With battery electric and hybrid electric vehicle sales having increased by 88% and 152% respectively from only a year ago, supporting 40,000 jobs, I am pleased there are over 42,000 charge point connectors in UK in over 15,500 locations, that’s more public places to charge than petrol stations!
I am also pleased that huge investments are going into public transport with £120 million to introduce 4,000 British built zero emission buses, and £50 million to create our country's first all-electric bus town. Further, the £3 billion 'Bus Back Better' strategy will deliver better, more reliable services with lower, simpler fares, and £500 million to reopen rail lines, and stations and further electrify rail routes.
I will continue to explore this matter, as well as the need for increased electricity generation to support increased electronification use.
Constituents have recently contacted me raising their concerns regarding fracking. Ministers maintain that fracking should only proceed if the science shows that it is safe, sustainable and minimises disturbances to local communities. Therefore, I welcomed the Government’s decision to halt fracking considering the most recent evidence.
In 2019 from the Oil & Gas Authority, an independent regulator, found that it was not possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking. As a result, the Government immediately announced a moratorium on fracking in England. This position will be maintained unless compelling new evidence is provided which addresses the concerns around the prediction and management of induced seismicity.
With the recent volatility in energy prices, the Government is considering all options; it has always been clear that it will be open to shale gas exploration if it can be done in a safe and sustainable way. Therefore the Government commissioned the British Geological Survey to advise on the latest scientific evidence around shale gas extraction. This request has been made to simply assess if any progress has been made in the scientific understanding of fracking. I want to be clear the moratorium will remain unless the latest scientific evidence demonstrates that shale gas extraction is safe, sustainable and of minimal disturbance to communities. In addition, I am reassured by my ministerial colleagues that any exploration or development of shale gas would need to meet rigorous safety and environmental protections both above ground and sub-surface.
You may be interested to know that renewable energy is cheaper than gas and therefore one long-term solution is to move in that direction. I welcome that the UK renewable capacity is up 500 per cent since 2010. However, the Government recognises that more must be done, and so is accelerating renewables with annual Contract for Difference auctions. I want to be clear that the more cheap, clean power we generate in the UK, the less exposed we will be to global gas markets.
Oil and gas
In 2019, the Oil and Gas Industry Association published its ‘Roadmap 2035: A Blueprint for Net Zero’, which highlighted the role the sector can play to help the UK achieve the energy transition that is vital to a fully decarbonised economy. In recognition of the important role that oil and gas will play in the energy transition and to our energy security, a licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects is planned to launch in Autumn. I welcome that producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than importing it from abroad and am reassured that supporting the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term will be coupled with the accelerated deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen energy.
The North Sea Transition Deal builds on the UK’s global strength in offshore oil and gas production and seeks to maximise the advantages for the UK’s oil and gas sector from the global shift to clean growth. Through the Deal, the UK’s oil and gas sector and the Government will work together to deliver the skills, innovation and new infrastructure required to decarbonise North Sea oil and gas production as well as other carbon intensive industries.
This will support up to 40,000 direct and indirect supply chain jobs in decarbonising the UK’s Continental Shelf (UKCS) production and the CCUS and hydrogen sectors. The deal is expected to cut pollution by up to 60 million tonnes by 2030, including 15 million tonnes from oil and gas production on the UKCS, the equivalent of annual emissions from 90 per cent of the UK’s homes. I welcome that in the year since the deal was agreed, there has been a reduction in carbon emissions from offshore oil and gas production, which have fallen by 11 per cent since 2018 - equivalent to taking around a million cars off the road for the year.
BP is already developing plans for the UK’s largest ‘blue’ hydrogen production facility on Teesside, which could produce up to 1GW of hydrogen, or 20 per cent of the UK’s hydrogen target, by 2030 and would capture and send for storage up to two million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
I can assure you that high-skilled oil and gas workers will not be left behind in transition to a low carbon future. The Green Jobs Taskforce conducted important work examining the immediate and longer-term challenges of delivering skilled workers for the UK’s transition to net zero including supporting workers in high carbon transitioning sectors, like oil and gas, to retrain in new green technologies. This work fed into the Government's Net Zero Strategy which highlighted that over 80 per cent of the workforce of 2030 is already in work today, as such meeting the UK's ambitious targets for climate action in the next decade, and reaching net zero by 2050, will require government and industry to work together to ensure workers in high carbon sectors can retrain and upskill as they move into jobs in the green economy. Much of this will take place in industry and the Government will support this through targeted programmes for industries and workers.
I believe the Government is taking the right steps to promote cleaner energy and the Net Zero Strategy, together with the Ten Point Plan and Energy White Paper, establishes the blueprint for this while also creating and supporting up to 250,000 green jobs. I hope the above provides reassurance that the Government and myself, take the issue of Climate Change very seriously and I am pleased we are accelerating at pace to decarbonise our energy sectors without causing undue financial pressures to consumers, including the constituents of Bosworth.
You can find out much more about what the UK, Government and International Community is doing to help tackle climate change through the House of Commons Library briefings: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/