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UK’s Johnson has a plan, its color is green

30 November 2020 Keiron Greenhalgh

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a plan and believes he is striding down a path to revolution, a green revolution, but in a shade of his own choosing.

Unveiled 17 November, Johnson's 10-point plan promises the creation of 250,000 jobs in the clean energy arena and a revitalization of the country's industrial heartlands such as northeast England, Yorkshire, England's West Midlands plus Scotland and Wales on the road to net-zero emissions.

"Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines of Scotland and [northeast England], propelled by the electric vehicles made in the Midlands and advanced by the latest technologies developed in Wales, so we can look ahead to a more prosperous, greener future," Johnson said in a statement accompanying the plan.

Johnson's plan referenced the country's heritage on multiple occasions, a path oft trodden by Conservative Party leaders.

But unlike some of his more immediate predecessors, who favored austerity and moderation when it came to responding to a crisis, Johnson is willing to open the public coffers.

An extra £200 million of additional funding to create two "carbon capture clusters" by the mid-2020s will be on offer, with another two clusters set to be created by 2030. Johnson said this would take the total for support from the government to a round £1 billion ($1.32 billion), which he said would support 50,000 jobs "to revitalize the birthplaces of the first industrial revolution."

The plan also promises up to £500 million for advancing the use of hydrogen, including for trialing use in homes for heating and cooking. Of this funding total, nearly half will be for hydrogen production facilities.

A similar overall amount of funding was promised for helping develop large and smaller-scale nuclear plants, and research and develop new advanced modular reactors.

In what is something of a theme for Johnson, the plan shows a willingness to split from his sometime friends across the English Channel, or La Manche, depending on which shore the observer stands.

The vision for achieving net-zero emissions through increased nuclear, low carbon hydrogen and carbon capture "stands in contrast with what we've seen from other governments" in Europe, according to Steven Knell, Research and Analysis Director, IHS Markit.

"The contrast with the EU Green Deal and its vision of a climate neutral European continent through growth in renewables and green hydrogen is notable. The UK plan shows there's no single way to achieve net zero, and also, that it is willing to go its own way in its post-Brexit energy transition," he added.

Energy industry advocates also noted the broad span of the plans.

Energy UK Chief Executive Emma Pinchbeck said: "We can only reach the net-zero target with efforts on all fronts, so we welcome the Prime Minister's commitment …".

"The energy industry will power delivery on most of the Prime Minister's bold targets, like those for electric vehicles, heat pumps, and energy efficiency - and on the investment in technologies, like hydrogen, nuclear and wind. Businesses see the massive potential for showing global leadership on the green economy as we also host the UN climate change negotiations in 2021 and rebuild after the pandemic," she added.

End for new gasoline, diesel vehicles sales brought forward

The energy sector isn't Johnson's only concern, he also announced plans for the source of 20% of the country's emissions, according to Office for National Statistics data.

Johnson sees a brighter, electrified future for road transportation, which comes after the UK automotive manufacturing sector took a hammering over the past couple of decades, lately as the threat of various Brexit permutations ramped up business leaders' uncertainty and hampered long-term planning.

Johnson's transportation game plan foresees some £1.3 billion of support to accelerate the rollout of charging stations for electric vehicles, £582 million in grants for zero or ultra-low emission vehicle purchase and almost £500 million spending in the next four years for the development and mass-scale production of electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

The UK will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, 10 years earlier than planned, according to Johnson, who added "we will allow the sale of hybrid cars and vans that can drive a significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe until 2035."

The proposal to bring the deadline forward surprised some, including the domestic trade association for carmakers.

"This new deadline, fast-tracked by a decade, sets an immense challenge," Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said in a statement.

"We want this transition to be 'made in the UK', but if we are to remain competitive - as an industry and a market - this is just the start of what's needed," he said.

"Success will depend on reassuring consumers that they can afford these new technologies, that they will deliver their mobility needs and, critically, that they can recharge as easily as they refuel," he added.

The 10 points:

  • Offshore wind: Producing enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling production to 40GW by 2030, supporting up to 60,000 jobs.
  • Hydrogen: Working with industry aiming to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.
  • Nuclear: Advancing nuclear as a clean energy source, across large scale nuclear and developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors, which could support 10,000 jobs.
  • EVs: Backing car manufacturing bases including in the West Midlands, northeast England and North Wales to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and transforming the country's infrastructure to better support EVs.
  • Public transport, cycling and walking: Making cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and investing in zero-emission public transport of the future.
  • Jet Zero and greener maritime: Supporting difficult-to-decarbonize industries to become greener through research projects for zero-emission planes and ships.
  • Homes and public buildings: Making homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
  • Carbon capture: Becoming a world-leader in technology to capture and store emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10 million mt of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to all emissions in the Humber currently.
  • Nature: Protecting and restoring the environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs.
  • Innovation and finance: Developing the cutting-edge technologies needed to reach these new energy ambitions and make the City of London the global center of green finance.

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