Big businesses push UK Government to phase-out gas power by 2035, as energy price crisis continues

Businesses including BT, the Co-op and Nestle have written to the UK Government, arguing the case for a ban on gas-fired electricity generation by 2035.

Image: National Grid

Image: National Grid

The letter comes amid an energy price crisis in the UK. Wholesale gas prices are up 250% on January levels, with prices having risen by at least 70% since August alone.  Skyrocketing prices have forced several small suppliers to go out of business in recent weeks.

It states that "the time is right for the UK to signal an end to the use of unabated fossil fuels in the power sector", taking into account both the current crisis and the UK’s long-term carbon targets.

The letter argues the case for a legal end-date to gas-fired electricity generation, to be set at 2035. The UK is already working towards a legal end-date for coal-fired electricity generation, of October 2024.

Such a move, the letter argues, would enable the UK to claim another “historic first”, following its legacy as the first nation to legislate for a legal end-date for coal, and the first major economy to legislate for net-zero.

Looking deeper than the overarching low-carbon benefits and potential to protect the UK from further gas price shocks, the letter states that many bug businesses with ambitious decarbonisation targets need more Government support to decarbonise hard-to-abate processes. Setting a direction of travel for a gas-free grid could provide certainty.

The operating firm for National Grid is predicting that the UK's electricity grid could capture, offset or absorb more carbon than it emits by as early as 2033, if efforts to scale up renewable energy generation and carbon capture technologies are accelerated.

After stating that  Great Britain's electricity system can operate as a zero-carbon grid by 2025, National Grid ESO this summer updated its Future Energy Scenarios predictions to ensure that three of the four pathways align with the UK Government’s net-zero target. 

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) recent roadmap to a global net-zero energy system by 2050 stated that advanced economies such as the UK should target net-zero electricity by 2035.

Signatories of the new letter are Bioregional, Octopus Energy, BT, Willmott Dixon, Chapman BDSP, Triodos Bank, Mitie, Nestle UK&I, Thames Water, Anglian Water, the Co-Op, Orsted, WSP, Landsec and the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, the EAUC. Also supporting the letter is the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Environment.

Mounting pressure

Also calling on the UK Government to commit to a completely clean electricity grid by 2035 this week is think-tank Green Alliance, which is hosting the letter from the businesses on its website.

The organisation has published the results of a new poll it conducted in partnership with YouGov, surveying 1,676 UK adults earlier this month. Two-thirds (66%) of these respondents would support a legally binding requirement for all electricity generated in the UK to be fossil-free within 15 years. Just 11% said they oppose this idea.

Green Alliance’s head of climate policy Caterina Brandmayr said: “Our reliance on gas power is pushing up bills, destabilising our economy and driving run-away climate change.”

Environment APPG chair Anthony Browne MP added: “The recent hike in gas prices will be a challenge this winter. Committing to phasing out gas by 2035 will show global climate leadership, while investing in low carbon technologies is the best and most cost-effective way to ensure a crisis like this doesn’t happen again.”

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is continuing to face questions about how it plans to navigate the UK out of the energy price crisis. Minister Kwasi Kwarteng appeared before the BEIS Select Committee on Wednesday (22 September), promising that the Ofgem price cap would remain in place to protect customers. He also stated that he is personally against providing bailouts for energy suppliers.

Sarah George



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