Stephanie Hall: Energy White Paper

The much-delayed Energy White Paper was published today on 14 December and largely represents a continuation of the noises being made by this Government recently in relation to renewables i.e. onshore bad, offshore good, with some rather more interesting ideas about hydrogen and small scale nuclear thrown in for good measure. There is also a notable target to review the NPSs by the end of 2021.

It is something of a blow to those who had hoped to see the clear and meaningful return of onshore wind and solar provision as very little mention is made of onshore sources of generation within the headlines. Some more minor references to wind and solar can be found sprinkled throughout the document, however, these sources do not form the basis for any of the major targets so it remains to be seen whether the planning system will see any changes to facilitate a return of onshore provision. One key reference is on p.45 which states that “Onshore wind and solar will be key building blocks of the future generation mix, along with offshore wind.”  However, it is notable that alongside each reference to onshore wind is an equal reference to offshore which appears to be the Government’s real focus for growth. A section is also devoted to reviewing the regime for connecting offshore projects to the grid – the Offshore Transmission Network Review – which will look at the impacts of the numerous connection sites required to deliver the additional offshore capacity proposed.

On the other hand, the paper retains references for the need to consider peaking demand in connection with renewables and there remains support for battery schemes and other means of addressing the peaks and troughs in supply which suggests a continued reliance on wind and solar for generation, so hope is not entirely lost for the onshore sector.

A great deal of the paper is devoted to energy at the consumer end. What is interesting for those in the energy and infrastructure sectors is how this will affect our ‘business end’ in terms of the scale and nature of generation required. For example, the BEIS analysis quoted in the paper projects a potential doubling in electricity demand by 2050, placing much pressure on the need to generate additional power with an increased focus on meeting climate objectives. The paper projects a vast reduction in UK emissions between 2019 and 2050, particularly when aviation and agriculture are removed from the projected emissions. This relies upon huge reductions in all areas including transport and buildings, as well as power generation.

The move to electric vehicles naturally has an effect on demand and it will also affect our motorway service areas. The paper proposes additional charging and grid infrastructure along the strategic road network to support the transition to electric vehicles which will no doubt have a knock-on effect on the need to align cabling with linear projects and the need to ensure the MSAs of the present and future are well-powered

The White Paper therefore has the ability to affect all of our practice areas from transport to housing schemes, in addition to those seeking to bring forward energy schemes and it will be interesting to see how these aims play out within the review of the NPSs.

Key takeaways:

  • Introduction of hydrogen - aiming to develop 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, a Hydrogen Strategy due in Spring 2021 and a Net Zero Hydrogen Fund
  • Whilst no particular mix forms a specific target, it appears clear that oil, gas and coal will still form part of the energy mix in the projected 2050 scenario, albeit reduced
  • Main new sources of energy proposed are offshore wind, nuclear and hydrogen
  • Focus on cost to the consumer of generation
  • 40GW of offshore wind by 2030
  • One new nuclear power station to FID by end of the Parliament
  • Support for one CCUS project to be operational by 2030

Stephanie Hall

14th December 2020

 

 

 

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