U.K. sets plans for clean energy and green jobs by 2050

December 14, 2020, 2:59PMNuclear News

A 170-page energy white paper, Powering Our Net Zero Future, issued by the United Kingdom government on December 14 sets big goals for cleaning up the U.K.’s energy system. According to the U.K. government, the plan would create and support green energy jobs across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and would keep electricity bills affordable as the U.K. transitions to net zero emissions by 2050.

The white paper notes that the U.K. will generate emission-free electricity by 2050 with a trajectory that will see "overwhelmingly decarbonized power in the 2030s. Low carbon electricity will be a key enabler of our transition to a net zero economy with demand expected to double due to transport and low carbon heat."

The white paper builds upon the U.K. prime minister’s 38-page Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which was issued on November 18.

Cutting emissions: The white paper establishes specific steps that the government will follow over the next decade to cut emissions from industry, transportation, and buildings by 230 million metric tonnes–equivalent to taking 7.5 million gasoline-powered cars off the roads permanently. In addition, over the next 10 years, long-term jobs in major infrastructure projects for power generation, carbon capture storage, and hydrogen will be created and supported, according to the white paper. A major program of retrofitting homes for improved energy efficiency and clean heat also will offer more jobs

Consumer in mind: At the center of the ambitious effort will be the affordability of electricity, even as the U.K. shifts away from fossil fuels. Affordable electricity is expected through a boosting of competition in the energy retail market and by providing at least £6.7 billion (about $8.9 billion) in support for the fuel poor and the most vulnerable over the next 6 years.

Nuclear’s role: Nuclear power plays a role in the white paper. The U.K. government has confirmed that it will enter negotiations with EDF in relation to the Sizewell C project in Suffolk as it considers options to enable investment in at least one nuclear power plant by the end of the current Parliament in 2024. If the project proceeds, it could create thousands of new jobs during construction and operation, according to the white paper.

Nuclear financing: The government also will continue to explore a range of financing options for new nuclear developers to help secure private investment and to lessen the cost to electricity users in the long run. “Given the scale of the financing challenge, we will also consider the potential role of government finance during construction, provided there is clear value for money for consumers and taxpayers,” the white paper notes.

In addition, the government will continue to engage with other developers that have an interest in the U.K. new nuclear market. An Advanced Nuclear Fund of up to £385 million (about $513 million) will be set up to support the development of small modular reactors and the research and development into more advanced nuclear technologies, such as advanced modular reactors, as these technologies progress toward commercialization.

Today’s tweet: Westinghouse Nuclear greeted the news of the white paper by tweeting on December 14, “Our Springfields site, home of the Clean Energy Technology Park, has the capability and capacity to fuel all the UK’s future new nuclear programs, and develop clean energy technologies that will be pivotal to achieving #NetZero2050—securing green jobs for future generations.”

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