The U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled a 10-point plan to set the country on its way toward its 2050 net-zero goal; an accelerated EV rollout and a new hydrogen target are the standout pledges.
While short on detail, the plan includes between £4 billion ($5.3 billion) and £12 billion ($15.9 billion) of new public funding to help decarbonize the nation. Johnson's Conservative Party states that the higher figure is the accurate tally of new funding involved, while the opposition Labour Party argues that two-thirds of that figure is funding that's already been allocated.
A new 5-gigawatt “low-carbon” hydrogen target for 2030 has been revealed, along with an ambition to heat an entire town with hydrogen by the end of the decade. Two carbon capture and storage (CCS) clusters will be supported with an additional £200 million of support by the middle of this decade with another two following by 2030. A pledge of £800 million is already in place.
Plans are being developed around several of the U.K.’s industrial clusters such as Humberside and Merseyside. The government is expected to choose which two clusters to support first before the end of the year.
“What’s hugely exciting about the announcements on CCS is the doubling of ambition," said David Parkin of the developer Progressive Energy. "Up until this point, the government talked about two clusters, one by 2025 and one by 2030. Now they’re saying four,” he told GTM in an interview.
Parkin is the project director of the HyNet cluster in Merseyside, which proposes an integrated network of CCS and hydrogen infrastructure. He expects blue hydrogen made from natural gas via steam reforming to meet around 80 percent of the 5 GW target, with HyNet alone planning to achieve 3.5 GW of blue hydrogen capacity by 2030. Its first hydrogen production at the site will be a 350 MW installment.
In terms of the funding, Parkin said the £200 million can help de-risk projects for private investors. The private investment will come if the revenue mechanism is right. Details on how that will be structured are still in the works.
Electric vehicles get turbo-charged
The new plan sets an earlier 2030 target for the phase-out of sales of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, up from a previous target of 2040. Hybrid vehicles get a reprieve until 2035.
A £1.3 billion fund has been established to back EV charging infrastructure, including residential, on-street and throughout the network of motorways. Grant funding of £582 million will be available for those buying zero- or ultra-low-emission vehicles. It was not immediately clear if this is all in addition to the pot for the existing grant scheme. Grants of up to £3,500 per new vehicle are already available.
The full plan consists of the following 10 points:
- The already announced offshore wind target of 40 GW by 2030. The current installed capacity is 10 GW.
- The hydrogen plans described above.
- Nuclear power will receive £525 million for the development of large- and small-scale reactors. There was no update on the proposed new funding model for new gigawatt-scale plants.
- The electric vehicle support described above, plus £500 million ($663 million) for the development of a domestic battery manufacturing industry.
- Promoting walking, cycling and public transport with £5 billion ($6.6 billion) of investment, which was previously announced.
- “Jet zero” efforts to cut aviation sector emissions, as well as greener maritime emissions. Neither sector is covered by the Paris Agreement. The U.K. is backing early-stage investment in maritime with a £20 million innovation competition.
- Energy-efficiency efforts targeted at homes and public buildings, including £1 billion ($1.3 billion) to be spent on more efficient new homes and improving energy efficiency in state schools and hospitals. An existing Green Voucher program covering two-thirds of the cost of homeowners’ efficiency improvements is to be extended by one year. A new target to install 600,000 heat pumps was also revealed.
- Carbon capture target to capture 10 megatons of carbon dioxide by 2030.
- Planting 30,000 hectares of new trees and establishing additional national parks.
- Establish London as a center for green finance.
Plan welcomed, but stakeholders want more policy details soon
The direction of travel in the 10-point plan has been broadly welcomed, but for many, policy details are now required.
Tom Heggarty, principal analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said: “The U.K.'s energy industry will be awaiting more detail around exactly how the government will be willing to support the development of emerging technologies. There have been false dawns before — [such as] the government canceling its £1 billion support program for CCS back in 2015 — but these new announcements are likely to be welcomed and provide the first signs of clarity around how the U.K. will meet its net-zero emissions ambitions.”
The level of policy detail is still fairly light. Professor Rebecca Willis of Lancaster University, an expert lead in the U.K.’s citizen Climate Assembly, described the announcements as welcome “but not yet a plan.”
Lord Deben, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, the U.K.’s independent, official climate advisers, said he is “delighted with the breadth of the prime minister’s plan.”
“This must now be turned into a detailed roadmap — so we all know what’s coming down the track in the years ahead. Our homes, the way we travel, our industries, our land, and all of us individually have a role to play as we strive to lead the world in tackling climate change,” he said in a statement.
U.K. to be outspent by Germany and France
The opposition Labour Party was quick to criticize the scale of the plans, claiming that only £4 billion of the £12 billion plan is in fact new funding. While party politics are of course very much in play, the party’s assertion that the green recovery plan is dwarfed by those of France and Germany would appear to hold water.
France is spending €30 billion over the next two years on its green recovery, including €11 billion for transport and €7 billion on energy efficiency. Hydrogen is receiving €2 billion.
Germany’s stimulus package includes €2.5 billion of EV charging infrastructure and €9 billion for hydrogen, €2 billion of which is to back overseas hydrogen projects. It’s spending €2 billion on decarbonizing shipping and aviation, split 50-50.