Industry reacts to UK green revolution plan


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday unveiled his long-awaited ten-point action plan intended to kick-start a green industrial revolution in the UK.

The strategy is designed to boost jobs and ‘level-up’ the country in terms of driving business and employment across all regions.

“Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines of Scotland and the North East, propelled by the electric vehicles made in the Midlands and advanced by the latest technologies developed in Wales,” Johnson said.

Highlights in the plan include moves to heat a whole town from hydrogen by the end of the decade, and banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 – ten years earlier than previously planned.

Boris Johnson during a video address

The government also plans to pump millions of pounds of investment into carbon capture and storage and developing nuclear power, both large scale and, especially, small modular reactors.

On hydrogen, the government will work with industry to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes and invest £500 million to make this happen.

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Included in this is the creation of a pilot project that will ultimately see tens of thousands of homes using hydrogen for cooking and heating.

And on electric vehicles, the Prime Minister announced £1.3 billion to accelerate the rollout of chargepoints for EVs in homes, streets and motorways across England, plus £582 million in grants for those buying zero or ultra-low emission vehicles to make them cheaper to buy and incentivise more people to make the transition.

The government says it will spend nearly £500 million in the next four years on the development and mass-scale production of EV batteries.

Johnson – who is currently self-isolating because of contact with a colleague who has coronavirus – said the action plan marks the beginning of the UK’s path to net zero as it prepares to host the international COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year.

“Although this year has taken a very different path to the one we expected, I haven’t lost sight of our ambitious plans to level up across the country. My Ten Point Plan will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050,” he said.

The energy sector has welcomed the ten-point plan, although some have also issued warnings over the challenges of how the strategy may be implemented.

David Hall, vice-president of power systems at Schneider Electric said “scrapping polluting petrol and diesel cars in favour of EVs is not only a key driver in reducing our carbon footprint, but could be vital in stimulating the economy through a green recovery”.  

“Encouraging more people to adopt electric vehicles is at the heart of the government’s efforts to tackle climate change and reduce air pollution – especially as emissions from the transport sector accounts for 23 per cent of the UK’s overall CO2 emissions.”

But he cautioned that “with this boom in the e-mobility sector being powered by electricity, we need to turn our attention to the potential strain EV adoption could put on the UK’s power infrastructure.  “Utilities stakeholders need to decide how to invest in upgrading the electrical network without creating

upward pressure on the cost of electricity for consumers and businesses, which may weaken the appetite for electric vehicle charging.”

Fintan Slye, director of National Grid Electricity System Operator, said: “It’s crucial that net zero is hard wired into any recovery plans from Covid-19.

“Rather than placing a strain on the grid EVs can play a key role in decarbonising both transport and electricity supply, with smart charging and vehicle to grid technology helping us use renewable energy more efficiently, charging when the sun shines or the wind blows and discharging back to the grid at times of peak demand.”

He said that if delivered, the government’s commitments “can have the dual effect of stimulating the economy, focused where possible in the areas of society most affected, while also accelerating the UK along the path to Net Zero”. 

Dr Alastair Martin, founder and chief strategy officer atdemand-response company Flexitricity said that the ten-point plan “depends on flexibility. In electricity, supply and demand have to match all the time, but offshore wind power goes up and down, and nuclear power stations deliver flat, unvarying megawatts. Meanwhile, electric vehicles and heat pumps add large amounts of demand to the local networks.

“The answer has to be for energy users to both save and earn money, by responding as energy prices and network power flows change hour by hour and minute by minute.  We don’t need them to take on hassle or risk – technology can handle this for them, while keeping homes warm and making sure vehicles are charged in time for the next trip.

He added: “We’ve recently seen a revolution in battery energy storage, and we’re looking forward to seeing that supplemented by green hydrogen – another flexible electricity-consuming technology.” 

“This means that at least three of the ten points – vehicles, home heating and hydrogen – answer the key challenges that the plan contains.  

Simon Daniel, chief executive and founder of battery and EV charging company Moixa, said thegovernment had outlined “a bold plan for zero emissions. Now, we need a bold green financing plan to match.”

“This plan should help us build back better without increasing the long-term tax or debt burden – this is possible. We need to reimagine economic and pension policy with ideas from the sharing economy, and new energy and sharing technologies to create jobs that deliver low carbon energy services. 

“Only by joining together the finance requirement with existing unfunded pension liabilities, can an effective path to achieving net zero by 2050 be achieved.”

Dr Amrit Chandan, chief executive of circular economy battery company Aceleron, said the government strategy was “ambitious and admirable, and while we welcome the acceleration of EV uptake, we need innovative policy and creative engineering to ensure we don’t end up with a glut of expensive car batteries going to waste in 10 years”.

He said that by 2030 “it is estimated there will be 11 million tonnes of EV battery waste alone, enough to fill Wembley Stadium almost 20 times. This will only increase as the ICE ban comes forward”. 

“We are calling on the government to engage with industry and invest in circular economy infrastructure that will support the reuse and repurposing of batteries to minimise waste and maximise the potential of raw materials.

Chris Jackson, Chair of the UK Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Association, said: “It’s fantastic to see the Prime Minister committing to the incredible opportunity that hydrogen can provide for decarbonising the UK economy.

“It is essential that the UK capitalises on its rich expertise and heritage in the production, storage and use of hydrogen, especially for hydrogen in the heating sector and for transportation.

However, he added that “It is crucial that the government ensures green hydrogen, and notably electrolysis, is front and centre of the hydrogen sector”.

“The ability to use sun, wind and water to decarbonise the UK energy sector is one of the most tangible examples of how science and innovation can overcome some of the greatest challenges we face.”