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Conservatives focus on nuclear and EVs in net-zero vision for 2050

The Conservative Party has unveiled its manifesto for a net-zero carbon economy, which includes commitments to plant more than one million trees and sets aside £1bn for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing, but fails to match Labour’s ambition in pushing the 2050 timeframe forward.

The Tory plans for achieving net-zero carbon emissions largely stick to the recommendations provided by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which claimed that a net-zero target could be achieved at the same cost that is put against achieving the old Climate Change Act, which is between 1-2% of GDP in 2050. The recommendations have since been enshrined into national law.

It was thought that the Tory Party conference would be used to provide more clarity on the net-zero target, specifically whether the new target would encompass all sectors – shipping and aviation are currently covered on a territorial basis – and how carbon capture and storage (CCS) solutions and hydrogen would be supported.

Despite no clarity on most of those measures, the plan does feature a commitment to build a £220m net-zero nuclear fusion plant by 2040. The first stage of the investment will cover the initial five-year development phase of the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP).

Other commitments listed by the Tories include plans to plant up to one million trees between 2020 and 2024 to develop the Great Northumberland Forest, deliver £1bn in funding for EVs and hydrogen fuel cell development, and a new Future Homes Standard that will be introduced in 2025 to create “world-leading energy efficiency standards”. Interim regulations for the Future Homes Standard will be introduced from 2020.

Andrea Leadsom, the business, energy and industrial strategy secretary said: “Addressing climate change is a top priority for the Conservative Party, and today’s announcements will not only help us reach our Net Zero 2050 target, but will benefit communities and households – and improve wildlife and wellbeing – while doing so.”

A 20-year gap

The announcement follows last week’s news that Labour Party members had backed a pledge to reduce greenhouse emissions to net-zero by 2030 – two decades earlier that the Conservative target.

The motion also commits the party to take Great Britain’s energy networks and biggest energy suppliers back into public ownership, introduce a complete ban on fracking and make large-scale investments in renewable and low-carbon energy.

The Tory commitments have also been criticised by green groups for failing to strengthen commitments that could move the ban on petrol and diesel cars forwards or encourage reductions in meat-based diets and eating. Friends of the Earth’s chief executive Craig Bennett claimed that the measures were “nowhere near commensurate” to tackle the issues of climate change.

“For decades, we’ve been promised that nuclear fusion is ‘just a decade away’ and yet it’s never materialised,” Bennett said. “Why throw money away on tech-fix pipe dreams, at precisely the moment that onshore and offshore wind and solar are delivering better returns than ever before?

“If the government is serious about slashing climate pollution it needs to stop fracking, stop filling the skies with more planes, and stop funding oil and gas projects abroad and instead invest in public transport, renewable energy and doubling UK tree cover.”

Theresa Villiers, the environment secretary added: “The planting of one million trees will be fundamental in our commitment to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it. They will enhance our landscape, improve our quality of life and protect the climate for future generations.”

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EU to pull plug on wasteful, unrepairable products

Newly adopted EU laws will make several products easier to repair and more energy efficient, saving people money while reducing pollution, NGOs in the Coolproducts campaign said.

For the first time, manufacturers will be obliged to make several home appliances easier to repair following the formal adoption of new laws by the European Commission today. The new rules will also cut the energy needed to power them.

As of 2021, all TVs, monitors, fridges, freezers, washing machines, washer-dryers, dishwashers and lighting products placed on the EU market will have to meet minimum repairability requirements aimed at extending their lifetime.

These products will also be made easier to recycle thanks to improved design and, in the case of displays, the removal of halogenated flame retardants.

The Coolproducts campaign brings together policy experts to ensure product policy benefits people and the planet. It’s led by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and ECOS.

Today’s announcement represents a turning point in the way we produce and use our products, according to NGOs.

Stephane Arditi, policy manager for the circular economy with the EEB, said: “This is the kind of innovation that we all need right now.

“Energy efficiency laws have already cut our energy bills and will continue to do so. Now, by also ensuring we get to use our products for longer, Europe can deliver further savings for people while cutting carbon emissions and waste.”

Chloé Fayole, Programme and Strategy Director at ECOS, said: “With these measures, Europe has just taken a big step towards a more circular economy, which should inspire the rest of the world.

“We now expect EU decision makers to replicate this approach to many other products and notably electronic products such as smartphones and computers, to minimise their environmental impact.”

The new measures are part of the EU’s Ecodesign Directive, which removes the most wasteful products from the market, replacing them with units that do the same job with less energy and resources.

They were previously agreed by all 28 EU governments in January, and are among the last few measures adopted by this European Commission before new officials take office.

Together with new energy labels adopted in March, the new energy efficiency requirements will help the EU save an additional 140TWh of energy a year, which corresponds to 5% of the EU electricity consumption. For consumers and companies, this means €20 billion saved on energy bills.

The repairability requirements can help deliver even more savings by slashing demand for new products and carbon emissions linked to manufacturing, distributing, using and disposing of new products.

Extending the lifespan of washing machines by just five years would save the EU as much emissions (CO2eq) as taking half a million cars off the roads annually, a recent study found.

Towards people’s Right to Repair

The new requirements have the potential to make our products last longer. Manufacturers will have to ensure that appliances can be easily disassembled with commonly available tools.

Spare parts and repair information will have to be made available to professional repairers for a minimum number of years.

The next EU officials should ensure that this approach is replicated across most product groups, the NGOs said.

Ugo Vallauri, policy lead of the Restart Project and a member of the newly formed Right to Repaircampaign in Europe, said: “This is an important step in the right direction, but we have a lot of work ahead of us.

“Next step will be to make spare parts and repair manuals available to all, not just professional repairers, and to extend repair provisions to many more products, starting with smartphones.”

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Ofgem has published its state of the market report 2019

The UK continues to be a global leader in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, according to Ofgem’s annual State of the Market report, but progress is slowing. (1)

Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 42% since 1990, more than any other large advanced economy, due largely to the decarbonisation of electricity generation. This has been driven by Government policies, such as the carbon price which penalises coal plants in particular, and the huge growth in wind and solar power. In fact, renewables generated a record 33% of our electricity last year. (2)

Progress is slowing however, with last year seeing the smallest reduction in emissions since 2012 (2.5% this year, down from a 3% fall the previous year).

Transport continued to be the largest single source of carbon emissions, although emissions fell slightly last year (3%), partly down to an increase in the number of alternative fuel vehicles, which now account for 2% of the licenced cars on the road in GB. (3)

In June, the Government passed legislation requiring the UK to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 following calls from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). To meet this target, significant investment is required, particularly in renewables, as well as policies aiding the roll-out of new low carbon technologies and supporting innovation to decarbonise how we heat our homes and businesses. (4)

A priority of Ofgem’s new corporate strategy is helping decarbonise the economy at the lowest cost to consumers. Ofgem will set out more details on this early next year. (5)

Separately, competition in Great Britain’s retail energy market continued to develop in 2018-19. Medium suppliers benefitted the most from record switching rates (just over 20% in June 2019, up from 19% the previous year), which swelled their market share by 7 percentage points in electricity and 5 percentage points in gas to over 20% of consumers overall. (6)

They also gained customers who were transferred to them under Ofgem’s safety net after a number of smaller suppliers failed and exited the market.

At the same time, the market dominance of the six larger suppliers continued to weaken as they lost 1.3 million customers and saw market share fall to around 70% of consumers, compared to around 75% the year before. Small suppliers for the first time saw their market share fall to 9% of consumers, down from 10% the year before. (7)

During this period, when shopping around for new deals, more consumers turned to price comparison websites (49%), ‘auto-scanning’ notifications (8%) and auto-switching (2%).

Meanwhile, the number of consumers who said they’d never switched fell to 29% – down from 34% in 2018. (8)

In January Ofgem implemented a cap on the price of default tariffs to protect consumers from overpaying for their energy. (9)

The majority of customers on these deals are with the six larger suppliers who charged at the upper limit of the cap. In contrast, medium and small suppliers priced at £43 and £78 below the cap (January – June 2019). (10)

Price transparency has improved in general for business customers. However microbusinesses still lose out and pay on average twice as much for gas and 30% more for electricity than the average across all business customer segments, often because they are on expensive default tariffs.

Energy prices have a direct impact on the welfare of consumers, leading to rationing and even self-disconnection of energy by customers who cannot afford to pay their bills. Ofgem is publishing its updated Consumer Vulnerability Strategy this Autumn. (11)

Joe Perkins, chief economist at Ofgem, said:

“Ofgem’s latest state of the market report shows the progress made so far to decarbonise the economy but much more needs to be done.

“We want the UK to remain a global leader in bringing down greenhouse gas emissions, and our major objective is to help the country rise to the challenge of cutting emissions to net zero by 2050 at the lowest possible price to consumers.

“As well as protecting consumers in the future, our duty is also to protect those today.

“We will continue to enable competition and innovation which benefits consumers, whilst protecting those who need it, as we help build an energy market which works for all consumers.”

Notes to editors

(1)    Ofgem’s State of the Energy Market 2019 report has been published 03-10-19.

(2)    Falling carbon intensity can be attributed, in part, to the new record contribution of renewables, which accounted for 33% of all generation in 2018 – up from 29% in 2017.This was primarily driven by wind, solar and bioenergy. A reduced reliance on coal also contributed to the decline, with its share falling from 7% in 2017 to 5% in 2018 (there was little change in the shares of oil and gas). The Government remains committed to ending unabated coal generation in GB by 2025. Without key decarbonisation policies, such as Renewable Obligations Certificates and Carbon Price support, we estimate that between 2010-18 the UK would have emitted an additional 69 million tonnes of carbon each year.

(3) Transport emissions have fallen by 2% from 2010 levels. BEIS (2019)Final UK greenhouse gas emissions national statistics: 1990-2017; BEIS (2019) Provisional UK greenhouse gas emissions national statistics 2018. The number of licensed electric cars in GB increased from 84,000 in 2010 to 592,000 in 2018, DfT Vehicle Licensing Statistics.

(4)  The Committee on Climate Change has called for a UK target of net zero greenhouse gases by 2050. It advises that the decarbonisation of heat and electrification of transport need to be expedited to match the progress that has been made in the electricity sector. Ofgem’s work and recommendations towards decarbonisation includes supporting the roll out of electric vehicles through flexible charging reforms; supporting further innovation in heat decarbonisation through our RIIO2 network price controls; developing enabling technologies and platforms for a more flexible electricity generation system, including developing cross-industry principles to set common standards and methods to promote interoperability, and reduce barriers to entry and lower costs. Ofgem’s Future Insights Paper 6 – Flexibility Platforms in electricity markets

(5) https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications-and-updates/ofgem-sets-out-medium-term-objectives-and-priorities

(6) The majority of switches continues to be away from the six large suppliers to smaller and medium suppliers, including 40% of total electricity switching between July 2018 and June 2019, stable compared with the preceding year. Most of these customers (25% up from 16% the previous year) moved to medium (especially to Bulb and Octopus), rather than small suppliers (16% down from 24% the previous year), which reversed the pattern observed in previous periods . Around 36% of switches, down from 41%, still happened to and within the six large suppliers, even though they generally offered higher prices compared to other suppliers. Ofgem/ Exoserve data.

The speed and reliability of switching has remained the same over the past few years and needs substantial improvement, largely due to data issues, preventing and deterring some customers from switching. Ofgem’s launched its Faster and More Reliable switching programme this year to improve the switching process.

(7) Since June 2018, the six large suppliers had a net loss as a group of around 1.3 million customers and their combined market share fell by around five percentage points in both gas and electricity, broadly in line with the drop observed in the previous two years. Medium suppliers gained around 1.9 million customers[1], and their combined market share reached above 20%, up by nearly seven percentage points in electricity and five in gas by June 2019, compared to only around two percentage points in the previous two years. Small suppliers’ joint market share declined by around one percentage point to 9% in electricity and remained almost unchanged in gas at 9% between June 2018 and June 2019.

(8) In 2019 Ofgem began measuring use of switching and deal scanning services that consumers can register for online.

(9) Ofgem’s Conditions for Effective Competition, published today, sets out the conditions under which Ofgem would consider lifting the default and prepayment tariff price caps. Effective competition is defined as dynamic and vigorous rivalry between firms to win and retain customers, with no significant barriers to consumers making an informed choice, and which generate good outcomes for most consumers so that they get a fair deal in terms of what matters to them.

(10) Less engaged consumers tend to be on more expensive default tariffs, which have been subject to the default tariff cap since 1 January 2019. The proportion of customer accounts on these tariffs has declined over time from 69% in 2015 to 53% in April 2018. As of April 2019, 53% of electricity customer accounts and 51% of gas accounts, excluding customers on prepayment, were still on these tariffs. Around half of these had been on default tariffs for more than three years, and 87% (gas and electric meter points) on default tariffs were with the six largest suppliers.  (11) For more on suppliers’ performance towards their vulnerable customers see Ofgem’s Vulnerable Consumers in the Energy Market report 2019

Further Information

For media queries contact

Ruth Somerville

0207 901 7460

Ruth.somerville@ofgem.gov.uk

Source:

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UK to take a big ‘STEP’ to fusion electricity

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, announced the funding package during a visit to the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Science Centre HQ in Oxfordshire – the UK’s world-leading fusion research laboratory.

Fusion offers a virtually limitless source of cleaner electricity by copying the processes that power the Sun – the collision of hydrogen atoms to release large amounts of energy. Researchers around the globe are now developing fusion reactors that can turn this into a commercial technology to help satisfy the world’s ever-increasing demand for energy.

STEP will be an innovative plan for a commercially-viable fusion power station – offering the realistic prospect of constructing a powerplant by 2040. The investment will allow engineers and scientists to produce a conceptual design for the reactor (known as a ‘tokamak’) that will generate fusion energy and convert it into electricity. UKAEA and partners from industry and academia will pool their expertise to complete the design by 2024.

The STEP programme will create 300 jobs directly, with even more in the UK fusion supply chain. In addition, the spin-outs from the design work are expected to be enormous – both in terms of synergies with other fusion powerplant design activities (such as Europe’s ‘DEMO’ prototype power station) and other hi-tech industries.

STEP builds on UKAEA’s expertise in developing so-called ‘spherical tokamaks’ – compact and efficient fusion devices that could offer an economical route to commercial fusion power. The new MAST Upgrade spherical tokamak experiment is due to start operations at Culham early in 2020. Its work will play a key role in the STEP design.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “This is a bold and ambitious investment in the energy technology of the future. Nuclear fusion has the potential to be an unlimited clean, safe and carbon-free energy source and we want the first commercially viable machine to be in the U.K.

“This long-term investment will build on the UK’s scientific leadership, driving advancements in materials science, plasma physics and robotics to support new hi-tech jobs and exports.”

Professor Ian Chapman, CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, added: “The UK has a proud heritage of pioneering developments in fusion research. This announcement demonstrates the UK government’s commitment to translating that R&D leadership into a working fusion reactor. We are excited to work with our partners to take the next step towards a fusion-powered future.”

If your company or research organisation is interested in taking part in STEP, more information about the project is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/next-step-in-fusion

The STEP Procurement Plan Schedule is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/step-procurment-opportunities

Contact: For more information please contact Nick Holloway, UKAEA Media Manager, on 01235 466232 or nick.holloway@ukaea.uk.

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The UK Government is committing £220M to the conceptual design of a fusion power station – the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP).

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, announced the funding package during a visit to the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Science Centre HQ in Oxfordshire – the UK’s world-leading fusion research laboratory.

Fusion offers a virtually limitless source of cleaner electricity by copying the processes that power the Sun – the collision of hydrogen atoms to release large amounts of energy. Researchers around the globe are now developing fusion reactors that can turn this into a commercial technology to help satisfy the world’s ever-increasing demand for energy.

STEP will be an innovative plan for a commercially-viable fusion power station – offering the realistic prospect of constructing a powerplant by 2040. The investment will allow engineers and scientists to produce a conceptual design for the reactor (known as a ‘tokamak’) that will generate fusion energy and convert it into electricity. UKAEA and partners from industry and academia will pool their expertise to complete the design by 2024.

The STEP programme will create 300 jobs directly, with even more in the UK fusion supply chain. In addition, the spin-outs from the design work are expected to be enormous – both in terms of synergies with other fusion powerplant design activities (such as Europe’s ‘DEMO’ prototype power station) and other hi-tech industries.

STEP builds on UKAEA’s expertise in developing so-called ‘spherical tokamaks’ – compact and efficient fusion devices that could offer an economical route to commercial fusion power. The new MAST Upgrade spherical tokamak experiment is due to start operations at Culham early in 2020. Its work will play a key role in the STEP design.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “This is a bold and ambitious investment in the energy technology of the future. Nuclear fusion has the potential to be an unlimited clean, safe and carbon-free energy source and we want the first commercially viable machine to be in the U.K.

“This long-term investment will build on the UK’s scientific leadership, driving advancements in materials science, plasma physics and robotics to support new hi-tech jobs and exports.”

Professor Ian Chapman, CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, added: “The UK has a proud heritage of pioneering developments in fusion research. This announcement demonstrates the UK government’s commitment to translating that R&D leadership into a working fusion reactor. We are excited to work with our partners to take the next step towards a fusion-powered future.”

If your company or research organisation is interested in taking part in STEP, more information about the project is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/next-step-in-fusion

The STEP Procurement Plan Schedule is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/step-procurment-opportunities

Contact: For more information please contact Nick Holloway, UKAEA Media Manager, on 01235 466232 or nick.holloway@ukaea.uk.

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