This week, the Labour Party published a new energy policy report: Thirty Recommendations by 2030. It presents thirty recommendations that could see the UK reach net-zero emissions across its energy system (not economy-wide) by the 2030s. These recommendations cover four areas. The first is a vast expansion of offshore and onshore wind and solar power. The second is a UK-wide programme to improve its building stock by reducing its energy consumption using low-carbon heating and mandating that all new buildings have net-zero carbon emissions. The third is investment in research and development for marine energy and renewable or low-carbon hydrogen for heating and energy storage and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) for industrial use. The last is the improvement of demand response and resilience across the entire energy system to maintain energy security during a transition.
The report’s recommendations strike a balance between investment in existing market-ready technologies (like wind and solar) and research and development of future technologies. How much of each to invest in has been a classic problem in energy and climate policy: research and development yields greatly improved technology to reduce emissions at lower cost, but spending on research and development delays the eventual deployment of emissions reductions technologies and allows continued unabated emissions.
The Labour Party’s report has been released in the same week the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its 2019 Offshore Wind Outlook. It predicts that by 2040 offshore wind will have increased its global installed capacity fifteen-fold and will have become a $1 trillion industry under existing policies and investment plans. To meet current climate targets, growth must be faster still, with 40 GW in annual capacity additions required during the 2030s – double the rate predicted in a 2030 business-as-usual scenario and nearly ten times the current rate.
The government is expected to present its long-term vision for the UK energy system in its upcoming Energy White Paper, which has been delayed since the summer because of Brexit negotiations and the upheaval in energy policy that the net-zero target has caused.
Nick Fedson MEng MSc
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