The UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) has read with interest, but concluded with real disappointment, the UK Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. We see it as a missed opportunity when radical, appropriately funded action to tackle the climate emergency is sorely needed.
The 10-point plan is supposed to reset UK Government policy as it prepares for the global climate change conference taking place in Glasgow next year. It is expected an Energy White Paper and National Infrastructure Strategy will follow later this month. (1)
Some of the 10 points the Government is taking forward include some welcome areas of support – for example a major increase of offshore wind, supporting the development of electric vehicles in conjunction with support for public transport, cycling and walking strategies, laudable aims on energy efficiency (despite completely inadequate resource for it), protecting and restoring the natural environment and looking at ways to increase green finance across the country.
However, the amount of new money committed to such work is totally inadequate to claim this to be part of a new green industrial revolution.
NFLA is particularly disappointed with the Government’s commitment to new nuclear, which, given the carbon footprint in the construction period of building such reactors as Sizewell C, will have next to no positive low carbon impact in the time required to be getting to zero carbon. Is nuclear power truly ‘green’ and ‘clean’ when it still creates large amounts of radioactive waste for which there is still is no long-term management solution for?
The amount of public money required to deliver both small modular reactors, a nuclear fusion experimental reactor and new large nuclear reactors at sites like Sizewell and Bradwell is massive. Hinkley Point C alone is coming in at around £22.5 billion (2). Small modular reactors could require similar figures given there is no agreed or approved design for them, or an established supply chain that can deliver them in a cost-effective way. An experimental nuclear fusion reactor requires billions more. In all three cases the delivery of such projects is years away and completely diverts attention for more effective alternatives.
NFLA urge ministers to read its reports on delivering an effective green recovery and moving to a 100% renewables target (3). These NFLA reports highlight a much more effective, jobs rich and zero carbon pathway is to go rather for a wide renewable energy mix, a much more ambitious energy efficiency programme that should be led by local authorities, and supporting new innovative techniques around smart energy and energy storage.
With local authorities facing yet further deep cuts in their budgets though, there is little detail provided on how this plan will help support them in delivering decentralised energy or the sort of resource that can have the transformative approach that we all surely want such a plan to deliver.
For example, the Conservative election manifesto in 2019 gave a pledge to “help lower energy bills by investing £9.2 billion in the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals”. Earlier this year, though an energy efficiency programme was announced of around £2.5 billion over a six-month period. However, NFLA notes now that under this new programme Andrew Warren, the Chairman of the British Energy Efficiency Federation has commented: “(The) current 6-month budget for Green Homes Grant for the public sector (£2.5 bn for an annual rate of £5bn.) (is) now cut by 80% to £1bn per annum. And unlike (all) other energy supply projects, nothing (is) committed after March 2022.” (3)
There is also no specific support provided for onshore wind or solar in the plan, or wave, marine and tidal power either. None of this looks impressive for the type of transformative green (i.e. renewable) industrial revolution we need. It has been renewable energy providers that have led the way in recent years, and yet again, this has been largely ignored by the UK Government.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair, Councillor David Blackburn said:
“The Government’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution is high on rhetoric but low on genuine, adequately funded low or zero carbon projects. Supporting new nuclear is totally old-fashioned and hardly revolutionary. In the past decade Hitachi, Toshiba, E-on, RWE Npower and British Gas Centrica have all pulled out of new nuclear projects. EDF is severely indebted, and Rolls Royce is in poor economic shape as well. The Government should be refocusing rather on the alternative green industrial revolution taking place across the world, as well as calling for a 100% renewable energy target. That would reinvigorate our industrial heartlands, bring equitable, community owned facilities and tackle both the scourge of fuel poverty and the need for a zero-carbon economy. We call on the UK Government to urgently rethink its strategy before its Energy White Paper is published.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes to Editors:
(1) UK Government, 18th November 2020
(2) Bloomberg, 25th September 2019
(3) See NFLA Policy Briefings 207 and 208 on a green recovery and achieving a 100% renewable energy target, November 2020
(4) 100% Renewable UK, 18th November 2020