An 'undisputed urgency to act': Green economy reacts to the Energy White Paper

The Government has unveiled the long-awaited Energy White Paper today (14 December), with green groups welcoming the focus it provides to both job growth and rapid decarbonisation in order to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Green Groups have welcomed the announcement, but more detail is still being required

Green Groups have welcomed the announcement, but more detail is still being required

The Energy White Paper has been delayed numerous times in 2020, but was finally released by the Government on Monday (14 December). It builds on the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and the National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) in outlining how the nation plans to transform its power and heating systems to support the net-zero emissions target for 2050. Specifically, the Government believes new measures will help cut emissions from industry, transport and buildings by 230 million metric tonnes over the next 10 years - equivalent to taking 7.5 million petrol cars off the road permanently.

While the publication of the paper has been long-awaited, the new detail listed by the Government is surprisingly sparse. Instead, the Whitepaper reiterates numerous decarbonisation commitments that were revealed in both the Ten Point Plan and the NIS.

While the official document is yet to be released, green groups have reacted positively to the inclusions of warm home grants and a UK variant of the Emissions Trading Scheme. Here, edie rounds up the key thought leaders and their responses to the White Paper announcement.

Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive at Energy UK:

“Today’s White Paper reveals the scale and opportunity of the energy transition, with aims in it to at least double the amount of clean electricity produced today, start making our homes warmer and greener, and help the switch to electric vehicles.

“The energy industry will do our bit to innovate, supporting our customers so that they benefit from the net-zero transition and investing in the green infrastructure we need – but clear policies from government help us do that. This is what the White Paper – and other publications over the next year – should provide.”

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist, Confederation of British Industry:

“The Energy White Paper is an important next step in our plans to reach our net zero emissions target. Action is needed now, and the welcome focus on job creation around the country, developing sustainable low-carbon industries, and ensuring the transition is fair for consumers will all help us achieve our ambitious climate goals.

“Business stands ready to deliver the investment and innovation needed to turn ambition into reality, and the proposals outlined in the Energy White Paper will give business further confidence to deliver new infrastructure, including electric vehicle charging, renewable power generation and low-carbon upgrades to people’s homes.”

Hugh McNeal, chief executive, Renewable UK:

“Today’s white paper provides greater clarity to the companies investing across the UK to deliver our net zero emissions target. Wind and renewable energy will be at the centre of our future energy system, providing the clean electricity and green hydrogen we need to decarbonise our economy. The next generation of onshore and offshore wind farms will bring tens of billions of pounds of investment to support a green recovery and create thousands of jobs across the country as we transition away from fossil fuels. To meet the goals set out in the white paper, it’s clear that we have to double-down on renewables as the main source of energy for our homes, transport and industry.”

David Smith, chief executive, Energy Networks Association:

“Together with Prime Minister's Ten Point Plan, the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget and now the Energy White Paper, we have clear policy around how the UK can decarbonise. More digitalisation and smarter electricity systems, more renewable generation and a shift to hydrogen and biomethane will help support jobs while slashing emissions from the way we heat our homes, power businesses and travel round the country.

"At the heart of this transition are the energy networks, which make up the backbone of our energy system and support over 30,000 jobs directly, and thousands more up and down the country through supply chains. We’re working harder than ever to support the fundamental shifts needed to deliver a system fit for the future energy consumer and we look forward to continuing to work with the UK and devolved governments to support a Net Zero future.”

Michael Burns, energy partner, Ashurst:

"The Energy White Paper is very much a build on the Ten Point Plan unveiled by the Prime Minister. One aspect that will be particularly important going forward will be the implementation-link between the National Infrastructure Strategy, released in November, and the Energy White Paper, as the success of each of them is largely dependent on the success of the other.  

What is also interesting is to look back at the Energy White Paper of 2003. Obviously, this was under a different government, but the themes of green energy and competitive pricing are very much there to see. What is positive is that there has been much progress since then on facilitating the reduction of carbon emissions in the energy system, but what is also clear, both looking at historical context and looking forward in terms of net-zero ambitions and the green industrial revolution, is that there is much more to do." 

Nicola Shaw, UK executive director, National Grid:

“This builds on the Ten Point Plan, and the next few months and years will be critical to providing the further policy detail needed to ensure we can get on with delivery. We are pleased to see the Energy White Paper progressing the discussion on what is needed to deliver the important ambitions on offshore wind, as well as hydrogen, CCUS, heat and transport decarbonisation. Against a backdrop of Covid-19 and Brexit, there is a lot of uncertainty but there is also an undisputed urgency to act on decarbonising the energy sector and supporting a green recovery.”

Nick Molho, executive director, the Aldersgate Group:

"The Energy White Paper should be commended for looking beyond just energy and recognising the central role of the power sector in supporting the decarbonisation of a wide range of sectors, including heating, transport and heavy industry. In many ways, the Energy White Paper sets out a low carbon industrial strategy vision for the UK and is based on the right premise that achieving net-zero emissions can deliver significant supply chain growth and job creation across many regions of the UK.

“The commitment to a UK Emissions Trading Scheme and the ambition to fully decarbonise the power sector are both welcome, but it is clear from the sixth carbon budget that we need a zero-carbon power sector by 2035, together with significant investments in grid reinforcements, storage and flexibility services. All of these areas need to become policy priorities in the early 2020s, alongside the development of a carbon price trajectory aligned with the net-zero target and a strategic approach to marine planning to support the rapid and environmentally sensitive deployment of offshore wind."

Gavin Graveson, executive vice-president, Veolia UK & Ireland:


"With UK electricity consumption set to double by 2050, we welcome the UK Government's latest plan to target net-zero generation. By addressing industrial, commercial and domestic energy efficiency we already have the proven ways to make major cuts in emissions today, and are ready to apply the emerging new technologies to help achieve the target ahead of 2050. Through embracing a true circular economy and expanding recycling further we can also preserve vital natural resources and cut the carbon impact.

"We need to act today. We can all go further, and by having a bold vision we can reap the environmental and financial benefits zero carbon can bring." 

Ben Spry, head of flexibility services at npower Business Solutions:

“Given the anticipation around its publication, today’s Energy White Paper had to be ambitious and add some crucial ‘meat on the bones’ of the recent Ten Point Plan, particularly in terms of the delivery of transformative technologies such as hydrogen and CCUS as well as the huge increase of renewable generation needed to decarbonise the power sector and wider industry. 

“By and large, it delivers. It is a vital piece of the net-zero jigsaw to turn ‘climate ambition into climate action’ and for many business energy users, the White Paper should provide them with more confidence to invest in their own road to net zero through green infrastructure such as onsite renewable generation and EV charging, as well as procuring energy from renewable sources."

Clive White, senior vice president for critical mission solutions, Jacobs:

“Jacobs welcomes the government’s recognition of the important role nuclear energy will have in the UK’s future energy mix and the shift to cleaner energy. The support for the development of the next generation of nuclear technologies including SMRs and the decision to enter into negotiations on Sizewell C are very positive steps forwards. Nuclear power provides the UK with a resilient baseload capacity, while also creating high paying jobs throughout the UK that make a significant contribution to the country’s net-zero commitments to help tackle the climate emergency.”

Matt Mace



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