The government must plug its policy shortfall or risk failing to hit binding net zero targets, the Science and Technology select committee has warned.
Identifying ten areas where government policy is lacking, the committee issued a series of recommendations in a new report looking at how to achieve net zero by 2050.
Among the committee’s recommendations was the need for strong policy support for new onshore wind and large-scale solar, as well as for a clear planning permission framework for re-powering existing onshore wind farms to be in place by the end of 2020.
The government should conduct a review into the small-scale renewables Smart Export Guarantee by the end of next year and be ready to include a minimum floor price if there is a lack of market competitivity, for example if the uptake of tariffs isn’t significantly higher than the current number, or if the tariffs are significant lower than wholesale electricity prices.
“We heard of cut backs in various programmes and slow progress, which are incompatible with the UK’s two upcoming, legally binding, carbon budgets—this is unacceptable,” Norman Lamb, chief executive of the Science and Technology Committee said.
The committee also criticised changes to business rates in 2017 that has resulted in the business rates on solar panels increase between three- and eight-fold.
The solar recommendations have been well-received by chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, Chris Hewett, who said the report is a “welcome addition to the growing body of literature that is calling on the government to bring down barriers to solar and energy storage in the UK”.
“The solar industry is ready to deliver on scale and must be recognised as part of the solution.”
The report was also welcomed by the Energy Networks Association, with chief executive David Smith saying it highlights how the system of private investment has helped make Britain “a superpower of renewable energy”.
“We need to build on that to ensure our country takes the smartest, most innovative and fairest approach to delivering Net Zero.”
Wider recommendations for a net zero future
Support for renewables wasn’t the only focus of the report, however. The committee reiterated recommendations made by the Committee on Climate Change – as well as several others including the Conservative Environmental Network and The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions – to bring forward the 2040 ban on conventional vehicles to 2035 and include hybrids.
In the short term, government should work to accelerate the deployment of chargers and introduce means to ensure they are interoperable, compatible with a smart energy system, reliable and provide real time data on their current functionality.
Ofgem’s role was also examined, with the committee suggesting the government consider the case for amending Ofgem’s principal objective so that it explicitly includes ensuring that regulations align with the emissions reductions targets outlined in the Climate Change Act.
The government’s action plan for carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) also came under fire, with the committee calling for “greater clarity”, particularly around what it considers to be deployment at scale and how costs are to be shared with the industry.
Other recommendations included a clearer strategy for the decarbonisation of heat, an incentive scheme for energy efficiency improvements, greater support for local authorities and consumers in decarbonisation and the support of new nuclear only to sustain and not grow the industry. The government should also anticipate gaps in future nuclear generation capacity such a policy would cause and support renewable power alternatives to fill that gap.
“We need to see the government put its words into actions,” Lamb said, adding that the scale of the challenge “cannot be underestimated”.
“If governments across the world fail to act, it will have dire consequences for the environment and generations to come.”