UK sets out green growth plans

Article by Adam Duckett

THE UK government has outlined a raft of plans for low-carbon investment, setting out how £2.5bn will be spent to support green innovation through to 2021.

The plans published today in the government’s Clean Growth Strategy outlines how the country will continue to meet its so-called carbon budget while grasping the opportunities presented by a low carbon economy that is projected to grow faster at 11% per year than the rest of the economy.

Among wider plans for electrifying transport and boosting energy efficiency in homes, it has pledged a series of investments to improve efficiency in industry and businesses, which are responsible for 25% of UK emissions.

Leading on CCS

This includes ambitions to demonstrate international leadership in carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) by spending up to £100m (US$132m) to lower costs and support deployment of the technology. This includes £20m made available for a demonstration programme to invest in new technologies. On top of this, the government intends to set out further plans next year on the development of CCS including its role in low carbon hydrogen production which could help to decarbonise heat and power.

Luke Warren, CEO of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA), welcomed the government’s recognition of the importance of CCS technologies but added: “delivering a strategy requires action and there is a lack of detail on how these ambitions will be delivered. Government and industry must now work together to define the steps required to deliver CCS and make meaningful progress on these this parliament if the UK is be a leader in this field.”  

Cost and clusters

The funding earmarked for CCS remains a far cry from the £1bn demonstration programme that the government launched in 2012 and then scrapped in 2015 amid concerns of its true value for the public purse. The government stresses in its Clean Growth Strategy that a guiding principle of how it chooses to reduce emissions includes achieving the lowest possible net cost to taxpayers.

“We have recently seen impressive drops in the cost of other low-carbon technologies,” Warren said. “This shows the power of government and industry collaboration to drive large-scale deployment and cost-reduction. We now need government to get behind CCS in the same way”, he added.

The government said it will continue to work with ongoing initiatives in Teesside, Merseyside, South Wales and Grangemouth to test the potential for development of CCUS industrial decarbonisation clusters. It will also set up a new Ministerial-led CCUS Council with industry to review progress and priorities.

Industrial action

Other measures aimed at industry include supporting the recycling of heat produced in industrial processes and investing £162m in research and innovation focussed on energy, resource and process efficiency.

For the power sector, which is responsible for 21% of emissions, it will spend £460m on nuclear for future fuels, new nuclear manufacturing techniques, recycling and reprocessing and advanced reactor design.

Green opportunities

Lauding its performance to date, the government noted that low carbon businesses and their supply chains support 430,000 jobs today. Meanwhile, emissions have fallen and national income has risen faster and further than any other nation in the G7 since 1990; emissions are down 42% while the economy has grown by 67%. Furthermore, in 2016 the UK achieved a decarbonisation rate three times higher than the global average.

Jonathan Grant, PwC sustainability director, said: "Analysis by PwC shows that the UK leads the G20 on clean growth and is decoupling emissions from economic growth significantly faster than its peers. The UK’s success comes down to policies that create a positive investment climate for low carbon technology, the drive to tackle emissions from coal and the strength of our services sectors.”

Shaun Spiers, Executive director of Green Alliance, said: “Going green is not only good for the environment: it is crucial for the future of the UK economy. By taking decisive action to reduce carbon emissions at home we can take advantage of the growing global market for low carbon technology and expertise. This strategy is the opportunity to reboot the agenda on energy efficiency, clean vehicles and the efficient use of resources in the UK.”  

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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