Clean Growth

30th November 2017


Paul Reeve explains the UK government’s plans for an ‘innovative, low-carbon economy’

The government’s long-awaited clean growth strategy outlines its plans for an “innovative, low-carbon economy”, and how it aims to achieve the UK’s self-imposed carbon reduction targets up to 2030. It brings together no fewer than 50 existing plans and new proposals, and many of these will affect the UK’s infrastructure and built environment.

Within its very broad approach to building a low-carbon economy, there are some favourites. First, the new strategy is particularly keen on offshore wind energy, where the UK is a global leader. And, despite rising capital and other costs, nuclear energy will attract well over £450m of extra public cash. This is nearly double the allocation for boosting smart, distributed energy, even though the strategy sees this as vital if the grid is to handle increasing renewable energy and changing customer demand. Large-scale management of energy supply and demand, enabled by digitisation, would also reduce the need for nuclear or gas power stations need to be built.

Pointing to falling costs and improving technology, the strategy sees renewables and electrical energy storage as a headlining double act – if it can remove regulatory and market barriers. The 160-page document aims to support the transition from fuel to electric vehicles and infrastructure, and it repeats the much publicised undertaking that by 2040, all new UK vehicles must be electric.

Despite the clear enthusiasm for offshore wind energy, there is nothing in this strategy about additional onshore wind, and the Swansea Tidal Lagoon is a regrettable absentee. Following the Hendry report, which advocated the Swansea scheme earlier this year, 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 building a tidal lagoon, it’s difficult to see how to demonstrate the relative value of this type of scheme. Significantly, the strategy also tells us that further growth in solar PV will be left to market forces, so it’s heartening to see the first ‘subsidy-free’ UK solar installations coming on line.

With low- to no-carbon energy options now operating at multi-gigawatt levels, and with more capacity on the way, the strategy reminds us all that ‘negawatts’ – energy savings from better design and efficiency – are the cheapest way to cut carbon emissions and energy bills. This suggests that further government initiatives will, once again, try to bring large-scale energy efficiency to the UK’s built environment.

Preventing atmospheric carbon emissions is, of course, far better than attempted cure. Even so, carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been viewed as vital to reducing atmospheric CO2, notably by the Committee on Climate Change. Yet when it comes to carbon abatement, the government is lukewarm, and CCS gets only about a quarter of the new cash investment in nuclear, and just a tenth of the £1bn promised as recently as 2015.

Significantly, this new strategy entirely omits fracking, which until recently was a big hit in government circles, and it is not explained how Heathrow’s third runway would fit in with the UK’s increasingly challenging carbon reduction plans.

The government is inviting comments on its new strategy until December 2017.

Paul Reeve Env FIEMA is director of business at the engineering and electrical services trade body, ECA

Image credit: istock

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

IEMA reviews political party manifestos

Ahead of the UK general election next month, IEMA has analysed the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Green Party manifestos in relation to the sustainability agenda.

19th June 2024

Read more

Nine in 10 UK adults do not fully trust brands to accurately portray their climate commitments or follow the science all the time, a new survey has uncovered.

19th June 2024

Read more

Just one in 20 workers aged 27 and under have the skills needed to help drive the net-zero transition, compared with one in eight of the workforce as a whole, new LinkedIn data suggests.

18th June 2024

Read more

Consumers are flexing their purchasing power in support of more sustainable products and services. Dr Andrew Coburn, CEO of sustainability intelligence and analytics firm, Risilience, considers the risk of greenwashing and sets out three key steps businesses can take to avoid the pitfalls and meet the opportunities of changing consumer demand.

18th June 2024

Read more

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

While biodiversity net gain is now making inroads, marine net gain is still in its infancy. Ed Walker explores the balance between enabling development and safeguarding our marine environment

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close