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Clean future: Clean Growth Strategy picks energy winners

The long-awaited government Clean Growth Strategy outlines the government’s plans for an innovative, low-carbon economy, including how to achieve the UK’s self-imposed carbon reduction targets up to 2030.

It pulls no less than 50 plans and proposals together, and many of these will affect future UK infrastructure.

Within this ‘kitchen sink’ approach to building a low-carbon economy, there are some clear favourites.

To begin with, the strategy is particularly keen on offshore wind, where the UK is a global leader.

Furthermore, despite rising capital and other costs, nuclear energy will attract well over £450m of extra public cash (by way of comparison, this is nearly double the allocation for boosting smart, distributed energy).

Yet, despite clear enthusiasm for offshore wind, there is nothing in this strategy about additional onshore wind, and Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is another notable absentee.

Changing priorities

Following the Hendry Report that advocated the benefits of the Swansea scheme, the new strategy says: “…nascent technologies such as tidal range could also have a role, but must demonstrate how they can compete with other energy generation”.

Short of actually building a major tidal lagoon, it’s difficult to see how to demonstrate the contribution of this innovative energy source.

Elsewhere, the strategy leaves further growth in solar PV to market forces, and entirely omits fracking – once a darling of government.

While the strategy signals growing government support for the much-vaunted transition from fossil fuels to electric vehicles and infrastructure, ministers have not used the 160 pages to explain how Heathrow’s third runway would fit in with the national carbon reduction plan.

“CCS, viewed as vital to reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide by the Committee on Climate Change, gets only about a quarter of the new cash investment in nuclear”

With a range of low-carbon energy options above, the strategy still acknowledges that so-called ‘negawatts’ - energy savings from better design and efficiency - are the cheapest way to cut UK carbon emissions and energy bills.

This signals further initiatives that will try to bring energy efficiency to the UK’s built environment, at scale.

Meanwhile, the government is only lukewarm about the prospect of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

CCS, viewed as vital to reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide by the Committee on Climate Change, gets only about a quarter of the new cash investment in nuclear, and a tenth of the £1bn promised as recently as 2015.

In this strategy, the future looks particularly bright for offshore wind energy, but Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon should also be a key part of delivering an industry leading, low-carbon and reliable energy future for the UK.

Comments on this, and the other features, of the new strategy are invited by government up to December.

Paul Reeve is director of business services at the Electrical Contractors Association

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