Shadow Energy Minister slams 'deplorable' delay of Clean Growth Plan
EXCLUSIVE: The continued delay of a long-term strategy to decarbonise the UK is a matter of "considerable shame" for the Government, according to Labour's Shadow Energy & Climate Change Minister Alan Whitehead.
The Clean Growth Plan – which will set out how the UK can stimulate economic growth while reducing carbon emissions – is still yet to be released more than 12 months on from the approval of the Fifth Carbon Budget, despite that text promising to deliver the Plan “as soon as reasonably practicable”.
The Conservative Party's Climate Change Minister Claire Perry recently confirmed that the Plan will not surface until at least September, when MPs return from summer recess. But there are concerns that the Clean Growth Plan's arrival could come too late for the UK to plug the gap required to hit the Carbon Budget's 2032 target of cutting emissions by 57% compared to 1990 levels.
These concerns are shared by Labour MP Alan Whitehead, who has told edie that time is running out to make up on “lost ground” in key areas where the Fourth Carbon Budget – which runs from 2023 through to 2027 – is already failing.
“It's a deplorable state of affairs,” Whitehead said. “Whilst I take on board Claire Perry's view that she's very enthusiastic about the Clean Growth Plan now, that she's new in the post and is going to make it even bigger and better, the fact is that it is not there at all, and hasn't been there for such a long time. It’s a matter of considerable shame for all of us.
“I hope it comes out very early in the Autumn. It is important now that, because of all of the changes with our position in Europe, we see whether we have a plan that really does guide us properly in the direction of keeping the Fifth Carbon Budget on track, and secondly whether the things in it can be incorporated into policy over the next period, in the absence of other guidance.
"It's a really important and crucial document to have at the moment and the fact that it's not here is very bad news.”
Experts have warned that the UK will miss out on its climate targets unless significant improvements are made to decarbonise well-documented problem areas such as heat and transport. The UK is less than half way to meeting its low-carbon heat targets, while the share of renewables in transport fuel has flatlined at 4.75%.
With reductions largely confined to the power industry, Whitehead believes the UK must better balance reductions between the sectors. “This means a lot of work on transport, and on energy efficiency, where we are failing miserably,” the Southampton MP added.
“We need to get our housing stock up to a level that meets what the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said is going to be the contribution from energy efficiency and insulation for both the Fourth and Fifth Carbon Budget.
“We also know that we are failing on heat. We know we've got to do some urgent stuff on that. So in all of those areas, we’ve got a big job to not just get ourselves ready for the Fourth Carbon Budget, but also getting up to speed and making up on lost ground.”
In regards to low-carbon heat, the Government has been slow to look at alternatives to natural gas, with alternatives such as hydrogen or electrification seen as harder than ways for cutting emissions from power, such as windfarms.
Whitehead has previously hinted that Labour’s preferred route to heat decarbonisation would include medium-term injection of green gas such as biomethane, with a longer-term move towards a full hydrogen supply – as piloted in Leeds. This would come alongside a substantial expansion of district heating programmes in more densely populated areas, such as Whitehead’s own Southampton constituency, where he claims the technology is providing a "tremendous boon" for local residents.
Labour’s 2017 General Election manifesto explicitly endorsed the development of a more decentralised energy system. And although not specifically mentioned within the document, Whitehead confirmed that the uptake of energy storage will form a central role in Labour’s “energy revolution”. The efficient use of storage will enable a far less variable output from renewables and maximise the use of energy that goes into the system, he said.
Whitehead said: “Energy storage – and that's not just batteries, that's a range of other arrangements – is a crucial part of that transition of taking us away from this reliance on baseload and huge redundancies in the system, in terms of making the system more efficient using what energy we do have. Changing intraday peaks, some storage can be particularly important in seasonal changes in how energy is used.
“Energy storage is the midwife of the energy revolution. It's going to be at the heart of how we manage our system in the future and that will also enable lots of different and innovative ways of managing the system, so that we are getting much better value for consumers, much more efficient use of energy we do produce, and we're going to be using a lot less energy as a result of those systems being in place.”