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Government’s Target to Abolish Fossil Fuel Use in All Power Generation by 2035 Not Credible, Report Finds

The Government is expecting taxpayers to pay through their fuel bills for the transition to zero use of fossil fuels but has given no indication of the extra cost

Rishi Sunak. Photo: Reuters/Alamy

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The Government’s target to abolish the use of fossil fuels in all power generation by 2035 is not credible, according to a new report by MPs.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee is highly critical of a lack of planning on how this can be achieved, the use of untried technology, and the failure to tell the public how much more they will pay through already high fuel bills to accomplish this.

Labour’s Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: “What is the plan? It has now long been understood and accepted that greening our economy is an existential priority, with the Government setting itself the target of securing an entirely low-carbon power supply by 2035. 

“But without a coherent delivery plan to get there, the Government will find it harder to know what decisions it must take, and when, to ensure that it can realistically reach its ambitions.”

The report states that the committee is “sceptical that plans for expanding nuclear, solar and wind power are credible” and that the “Government has set itself highly challenging electricity generating capacity ambitions for nuclear (24GW by 2050), solar (70GW by 2035) and offshore wind power (50GW by 2030)”. 

“By comparison, the UK’s current operating capacity is less than a quarter of each of these ambitions,” it said. “Its nuclear ambitions include a mix of large stations as well as so-called SMRs, a type of smaller reactor untested in the UK and not operating at scale anywhere in the world.”

The report also states that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s announcement in his spring budget to spend £20 billion on carbon capture and storage was based on an untried technology which repeatedly had failed to get off the ground by previous governments.

Private industry, which is expected to fund much of the programme, had not been given clarity by the Government on investment and previous programmes, such as insulating homes, have been subject to stop gap funding which has made the private sector cautious about taking up government schemes.

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There is little co-ordination across Whitehall departments to achieve what was needed to back up such and ambitious programme – such as sorting out planning issues or setting up a skills programme to train people to work in green industries.

The Government is expecting taxpayers and people to pay through their fuel bills for the transition to zero use of fossil fuels but has given no indication of the extra cost. It also has to fund a big expansion in electricity generation to 2037 costing up to £400 billion from public and private resources.

The criticism of the Government’s programme by MPs comes two days after Labour launched its green policy.  The party looks like being more cautious about meeting such an ambitious target by 2035 promising “to ensure that 60% of the UK’s energy comes from low-carbon or renewable sources within twelve years of coming to power”.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “Far from the committee’s claims, our plans to power up Britain seizes opportunities from our transition to a decarbonised energy system. We have already attracted £120 billion of private investment in renewables since 2010 and expect to attract a further £100 billion of investment which will support up to 480,000 jobs by 2030.

“This will build on our world-leading record on delivering cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy, having the world’s four largest operational wind farms off our shores and renewable sources now accounting for 40% of our electricity supply – up from just 2% in 2010.”

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