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£90 million UK drive to reduce carbon emissions

Households and businesses will benefit from £90 million to cut carbon emissions in industry and homes.

  • £90 million package announced to tackle emissions from homes and heavy industry – including funding for Europe’s first hydrogen plants which could generate enough clean energy to heat over 200,000 homes
  • local energy projects across the country could reduce housing emissions by up to 80% and save consumers money on their energy bills
  • renewable energy to power industry instead of fossil fuels, removing 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2030

Households and businesses will benefit from £90 million to cut carbon emissions in industry and homes, Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng announced today (18 February 2020).

£70 million will include funding for 2 of Europe’s first-ever low carbon hydrogen production plants – the first on the banks of the Mersey, the second planned for near Aberdeen. A third project will develop technology to harness offshore wind off the Grimsby coast to power electrolysis and produce hydrogen.

Hydrogen is a low or zero-emission alternative to fossil fuels which could power future industry and transport. The investment will also fund projects to trial cutting-edge technologies for switching industrial production from fossil fuels to renewables in industries such as cement and glass production.

The remaining £20 million will be used to fund projects aimed at cutting household emissions and bills through nine UK-wide local “smart energy” projects. Over 250,000 people could have their homes powered by local renewable sources by 2030 – which could lead to their energy bills reducing by as much as half, thanks to this government funding.

If successful, the 10 community pilot projects from Rugeley near Stafford to Coleraine in Northern Ireland could revolutionise local energy generation – allowing local communities to join the frontline in the fight against climate change.

In Rugeley, a coal fired power station is to be demolished and turned into a sustainable village of 2,300 homes. Residents will benefit from thermal storage units instead of traditional gas boilers, enabling them to draw, store and heat their homes with geothermal energy from local canals and disused mine shafts.

In Coleraine, a micro-grid of nearly 100 homes will be established, powered entirely by local wind power. It will help lower household electricity bills by as much as 50% and boost the contribution of renewables to the local energy mix by a quarter.

Visiting the Gigastack project in Grimsby today, Kwasi Kwarteng, Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, said:

Cleaning up emissions from industry and housing is a big challenge but today’s £90 million investment will set us on the right path as we develop clean technologies like hydrogen.

This is an important part of our world-leading efforts in eliminating our contribution to climate change by 2050 while also growing our economy, creating up to 2 million green collar jobs across the country by 2030.

This investment in low carbon innovation will be crucial to help us end our contribution to climate change by 2050.

The news comes just 2 weeks after the Prime Minister announced plans to bring forward the phase-out of coal to 2024 as we continue to ramp up our Year of Climate Action ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November.

Notes to editors

1. The complete funding package forms part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s £500 million innovation fund, which is dedicated to harnessing and rolling out cutting edge technology to fight climate change.

2. Currently difficult and expensive to produce in bulk, hydrogen could be vital in the fight against climate change as a low carbon alternative to fossil fuels used by heavy transport and industry.

3. Of the £70 million being invested in these technologies, £28 million will be for projects developing hydrogen production, including the 2 plants.

4. A further £18.5 million of funding is being awarded to projects developing and trialling technologies to move industrial concrete and glass production away from fossil fuels and onto renewables.

5. The projects have the potential to be scaled up and rolled out across industry, meaning houses and roads could be built using low-emission concrete by 2030. This would prevent 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 a year from polluting the environment – equivalent to taking 679,000 cars off the road.

6. The remaining £22 million of funding will go to top UK scientists and engineers to conduct cutting-edge research into decarbonising industry, focusing on emission-heavy transport and heating.

7. Breakdown of funding:

  • Hydrogen Supply programme – £28 million for 5 demonstration phase projects
  • Industrial Fuel Switching programme – £18.5 million for 4 demonstration phase projects
  • UKRI Local Smart Energy Designs – £21 million for 10 demonstration phase projects
  • UKRI Key Technology Components for Local Energy Systems – £3 million awarded to various demonstration phase projects
  • UKRI Research funding – £22 million for research into challenges in reaching net zero posed by: heating, transport and global fuel markets

8. Hydrogen projects awarded funding:

ProjectLeading bodyFunding received
Dolphyn ProjectEnvironmental Resources Management Ltd£3.12 million
HyNetProgressive Energy Limited, in collaboration with Johnson Matthey, SNC Lavalin and Essar Oil£7.48 million
GigastackITM Power Trading Ltd, in collaboration with Orsted, Phillips 66 and Element Energy£7.5 million
AcornProject Pale Blue Dot Energy£2.7 million
HyPERCranfield University, in collaboration with Gas Technology Institute and Doosan£7.44 million

Find more details of the Hydrogen Supply Competition projects.

9. Fuel switching projects funding:

ProjectLeading bodyFunding received
HyNetProgressive Energy Ltd, in collaboration with Pilkington, Unilever and Essar£5.27 million
Hydrogen Alternatives to Gas for Calcium Lime ManufacturingBritish Lime Association£2.82 million
Switching fuels for cement productionMineral Products Association£3.2 million
Switching Technologies for the Glass SectorGlass Futures Ltd and partners£7.12 million

Find more details of the Industrial Fuel Switching competition projects.

10. Local smart energy projects awarded UKRI funding (more information available from UKRI):

ProjectTown / City
West Midlands Regional Energy System OperatorCoventry
GIRONAColeraine, Causeway Coast and Glens
Peterborough Integrated Renewables InfrastructurePeterborough
Green Smart Community Integrated Energy Systems 2Islington (London)
Zero Carbon RugeleyRugeley
GM Local Energy MarketGreater Manchester
Project REMeDYSouthend
Energy KingdomMilford Haven
Multi-vector Energy ExchangeLiverpool
REWIRE-NWWarrington

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British Gas scraps rise in minimum meter top-ups after public outcry

British Gas has scrapped an increase in the minimum top-up amount for its pre-pay energy meters after a public outcry over the move which opponents argued forced some vulnerable families to choose between eating and heating.

More than 90,000 people signed a petition calling for the UK’s biggest energy supplier to reverse their decision to raise the minimum top-up amount from £1 to £5 which was put in place on 1 January this year.

Activist group 38 degrees, which helped to spearhead the campaign, said the hike meant homes that rely on small top-ups to ration their heating costs between pay days were forced to choose between staying warm and buying food.

British Gas, which recently revealed its worst ever full-year profits for 2019, justified the hike by pointing out that only a small number of its pre-pay customers would regularly top-up their meter with less than £5 at a time. The supplier added that rivals at Ovo Energy and Bulb Energy have set a £5 limit to keep costs low.

Sarwjit Sambhi, the boss of British Gas, said “customers are always at the heart of the decisions we make” and the “aim of this move was to keep our costs down in order to offer our customers the best value”.

“But I am happy to change this decision whilst we continue to look at ways that we can help our most vulnerable customers,” he said.

About 91,000 members of the public signed a petition set up by Preet Kaur Gill, the MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, which called on British Gas to reverse their decision. Hundreds of people also contacted the supplier to share how they were affected.

Trevor, a British Gas customer from Stafford who signed the online petition, said: “I am disabled and so rely on benefits to get by. Sometimes you just haven’t got that fiver to top up the meter – because you’re not getting paid until the end of the week – so you can’t. It means choosing between things like food, and heat – and in cold weather it’s even worse.”

Gill said the British Gas U-turn is “a vital win for the thousands of people affected by British Gas’s decision to raise the minimum pre-pay top-up”.

“Our campaign revealed the extent of the fuel poverty crisis under this government. Much more needs to be done to ensure that no one has to choose between eating and heating their home. I urge other energy providers to follow suit,” she added.

Ruby Earle, a campaigner at 38 degrees, said: “This goes to show the power ordinary people can have when we come together.”

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Call for governments to work together to ‘kick start’ energy revolution

New funding needs to be established by the UK and Scottish governments to kick start a “community energy revolution” if climate change targets are to be met, a major new report has claimed.

The report by WPI Economics and SP Energy Networks calls for the UK and Scottish governments to collaborate to support community groups who want to generate their own energy.

But the report comes as the two administrations are at loggerheads over the COP26 climate conference due to be held in Glasgow later this year.

The Future of Community Energy document maps out the benefits the sector could deliver if given support, suggesting that over the next decade the number of community energy organisations could rise to around 4,000 across the UK – bringing a possible £1.8bn boost to local economies and creating over 8,000 jobs.

The schemes could also play a key role in meeting climate change targets by saving 2.5m tonnes of carbon emissions, while community solar panels or wind turbines could power up to 2.2m homes across the UK, and cut energy bills of households involved by up to £150m a year. A Citizens Advice Scotland report has found that one in eight Scots say their energy bills are unaffordable.

According to the report, the government should establish a national community energy strategy with a community energy fund; create new, regional funding streams; and give greater support and resource to groups who want to set up schemes.

Frank Mitchell, chief executive of SP Energy Networks said the report showed “just how much potential there is within our communities in our drive to a zero- carbon future, lowering emissions with the additional benefit of driving up skills and jobs across the UK.”

Last week MSPs on Holyrood’s economy and energy committee were told that more investment was needed if a broader range of people were to benefit from the decarbonisation of energy. A recent Climate Emergency Response Group report also said the Scottish Government needed to generate public and private investment of between £1.8bn and £3.6bn a year, to achieve its carbon emissions goals by 2045.

Community and local energy schemes are being encouraged as a way to increase renewable energy production, taking strain off the national grid, and creating new revenues for local areas. Today the Scottish Parliament also agreed to give rates relief to district heating schemes to encourage more be established.

Mr Mitchell said: “The report also shows what might be possible by highlighting the innovative efforts of communities – notably in Scotland and Wales– where sustained government support and a strong backing from third sector organisations has enabled local energy to lead the way, not only in a UK context but internationally as well.”

He added: “But we’ve only just scratched the surface. Communities across the UK increasingly want to generate their own, low carbon power. As the provider of the energy networks that make this possible, SP Energy Networks is committed to doing more. But we need government and regulators to allow us to do so.

“It is time for communities to be given a stronger voice in how their areas reach Net Zero. And as this report makes clear, we need new funding streams and reduced regulation in licensing planning to meet this vision”.

Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “Our support for community energy is beyond question – indeed it is internationally recognised. We had a target for 500MW by 2020 which we have exceeded by far, and indeed we voluntarily increased it to 1GW for 2020 and 2GW for 2030.

“Progress has been good against higher target. To date, there are more than 700MW of community and locally owned projects installed, with a similar quantity in the pipeline, but we have been undermined by removal of Feed In Tariffs by UK ministers and have urged them to reconsider reinstating them.

“We have put in place Non Domestic Rates reliefs for community hydro and wind projects and continue with CARES support, but UK ministers ultimately control the ‘route to market’ and have withdrawn any subsidy for onshore wind. We continue to explore and have been encouraging shared revenue models as a means of increasing community involvement in larger projects.”

He added: “We welcome this report and SPEN’s growing interests in community energy. Many of the recommendations included in this report are similar to what we have recently consulted on in our draft Local Energy Policy Statement, for which SPEN submitted a response.

“We are currently reviewing the responses to the consultation with the intention of publishing a final statement, including a delivery framework, in the spring.”

SP Energy Networks said it would launch an “educational toolkit” to provide communities with the information needed to get schemes off the ground and connect to the grid.

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Over £50 million for clean energy projects across Africa

The UK has invested millions in clean technology across Africa, to support the continent’s growing energy needs.

  • over £50 million invested in innovative, clean technology as the UK works with African countries to develop sustainable energy sources, providing thousands of people with clean energy
  • UK will share expertise in green finance and science and innovation to develop solar farms and battery storage projects
  • African energy demand is set to rise 60% by 2040 – clean energy will be central in powering Africa’s growing economies and increasing access to electricity

Green energy supply in Africa is set for a major boost after the UK government announced winners of an investment package for the continent’s clean energy infrastructure at the African Investment Summit today.

Solar farms in Kenya, geothermal power stations in Ethiopia and clean energy storage across sub-Saharan Africa will receive funding and see leading UK scientists and financial experts working with their African counterparts to realise the continent’s huge potential for renewable energy.

With African energy demand set to rise by 60% by 2040, UK experts will help deliver green solutions for the continent’s growing energy needs, bringing clean energy to thousands of people and creating jobs and increased prosperity.

Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:

Our world-leading scientists and financial experts will work hand in hand with African nations to support their quest for energy security, powering new industries and jobs across the continent with a diverse mix of energy sources while promoting economic growth.

Speaking at the summit, Ms Leadsom emphasised the opportunity for many African countries to leapfrog coal power to cleaner forms of energy but stressed that more needed to be done to unlock investment.

A world-leader in reducing carbon emissions at home, today’s investment in global clean energy comes after the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the £1 billion ‘Ayrton Fund’ for British scientists last Autumn to help developing nations reduce reliance on fossil fuels and reduce their carbon emissions.

As part of the initiatives announced today, the UK will support African countries with the technical skills and expertise they need in order to attract investment in renewable projects, getting innovative projects like wind and solar farms up and running. Close collaboration with African countries will be key as the UK gears up to host the UN climate talks (COP26) later this year.

UK funded projects in Africa include winners of the Energy Catalyst Competition, which has seen solar plants, energy storage batteries and hydro-power built in countries such as Botswana and Kenya; a £10 million programme which matches UK based green finance experts with project developers from developing countries to facilitate investment in clean energy projects; and the Nigeria 2050 calculator, a modelling tool designed by UK scientists to support the Nigerian government’s sustainable development planning.

Kenya is also set to benefit from a £30 million government investment in affordable energy-efficient housing which will see the construction of 10,000 low-carbon homes for rent and sale. This will support the creation of new jobs in Kenya’s green construction industry and help tackle climate change.

Over 50% of the UK’s energy production came from renewable sources last year, and with London’s expertise as the global hub for green finance, the UK is best placed to be Africa’s leading partner and help it harness its wealth of renewable sources as it moves away from coal power.

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Electric shock: Could Brexit scar Britain’s energy landscape?

Britain’s exit from the EU, which will finally happen on Friday (31 January), has sparked fears of disruption to its electricity market, from higher bills to supply issues and stalled de-carbonisation efforts.

Britain depends on the European Union for much of its electricity supply.

Its own generation fell in 2018 by 1.6%, according to the latest available statistics.

This reduction stems from the gradual shutdown of coal-fired power plants, which is yet to be fully compensated by a rise in wind power.

Imports of electricity and gas have increased in response, predominantly from France, the Netherlands and Ireland, which now account for almost 40% of Britain’s energy consumption.

Britain’s imminent departure from the 28-member EU and its single electricity market therefore represents a risk for an already fragile network, which suffered a big blackout in August.

It will continue to benefit from existing arrangements during a post-Brexit transition phase, while it seeks a new agreement on everything from energy to security cooperation with Brussels.

But it is not clear if these talks will entirely resolve the issue.

British industry regulator Ofgem has said “alternative trading arrangements will need to be developed”, without giving further details.

It insists that whatever deal is struck, it does not “expect Brexit to interrupt the flows of electricity and gas”.

But at times of peak demand, Britain may find itself at the back of the line for electricity.

“EU countries could get preference,” Weijie Mak, of research company Aurora, told AFP.

As with other areas such as finance, agreeing so-called equivalence on things like CO2 emission rules – so countries who produce cleaner and more expensive electricity are not disadvantaged – will be key.

Price rise?

Uncertainty over equivalence and the possible return of tariffs or quotas if trade negotiations falter has left some sceptical that nothing will change post-Brexit.

“The electricity trade will become more expensive,” said Joseph Dutton, policy advisor at climate change think tank E3G. “It could mean higher bills for consumers.”

Trading in electricity across the Channel is currently based on an auction system, which could be upset by Britain’s EU departure.

Eurelectric, the association representing the industry at the European level, sees it as a “lose-lose situation” because of “less efficient gas and power trading”.

The hazy picture has seen the French government put on hold several interconnector projects aimed at better linking the electric power grids of Britain and the continent.

But they are seen as crucial for energy security on the English side of the Channel.

“(They) supply less than 10% (of electricity consumed) but allow you to balance supply and demand,” said Dutton.

“Interconnectors give you flexibility to build more renewables (wind mills in particular) because you can buy electricity when the wind is not blowing and sell it when you have more than you need.”

That could lead the government to postpone the closure of gas-fired power stations and delay Britain’s transition to entirely green energy sources, which it has vowed to do by 2050.

It could also mean easing a carbon tax currently levied on electricity prices to finance the transition if bills have spiked.

“If they (interconnectors) are not working, it has real consequences for the net zero targets,” concluded Dutton.

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Who pays for the EU’s €1tn green deal?

Under its president, Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission has big plans to address climate change. With a €1tn ($1.1tn) investment package, it hopes to transform Europe into a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

But much of that €1tn for the commission’s proposed green deal would be generated through financial-leverage effects. In 2020, the EU will formally allocate for such purposes only around €40bn, most of which is already included in the budget from previous years; arguably, only €7.5bn of additional funding under the plan would actually be new.

As with the previous commission’s 2015 Juncker plan, the trick, once again, will be to muster the lion’s share of the quoted sum through a shadow budget administered by the European Investment Bank (EIB). The commission, after all, is not allowed to incur debt; but the EU’s intergovernmental rescue and investment funds are.

Jeffrey Frankel Read more

In essence, the EU is doing what the major banks did before the 2008 financial crisis, when they circumvented regulation by shifting part of their business to off-balance-sheet conduits and special-purpose vehicles. In the case of the EU, the guarantees offered by the commission and individual EU member states are sufficient for a high credit rating, and thus for the issuance of European debenture bonds. The funds generated will be used for public and private purposes, and sometimes even for public-private partnerships. But should the guarantees be called in one day, eurozone taxpayers will be the ones to foot the bill.Advertisement

These planned shadow budgets are problematic, not only because they would allow the commission to circumvent a prohibition against borrowing, but also because they implicate the European Central Bank. To be sure, the ECB president, Christine Lagarde, has already announced that she wants the bank to play a more active role in climate-friendly activities within the eurozone. And the ECB is now considering whether to pursue targeted purchases of bonds issued by institutions that have received the commission’s climate seal of approval.

In practice, of course, this most likely means that the ECB would buy up the “green” bonds now being devised by the EIB. Those purchases will then reduce the interest rates at which the EIB can take on debt, ultimately leading to activation of the printing press to provide the money for spending on climate policy.

It is laudable to want to do something about climate change. But under the current plan, the ECB would be pushed into a legal grey area. The institution is not democratically controlled, but rather managed by technocrats on the executive board. Every member state, big or small, appoints its own representative, who then has equal voting rights, personal immunity, and the autonomy to operate free from any parliamentary accountability.

Moreover, under the Maastricht treaty, the ECB board is primarily obligated to maintain price stability, and may support separate economic-policy measures only if doing so does not endanger its ability to fulfil this mandate. In the case of the green deal, the dangers are obvious. If the additional demand created by an expansion of green projects is funded by printing money instead of collecting taxes, it will not withdraw demand from other sectors of the European economy and would therefore be potentially inflationary.

Situations like this serve as a reminder of why article 123 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union strictly prohibits the ECB from taking part in the financing “of Union institutions, bodies, offices or agencies, central governments, regional, local, or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of member states”. But, of course, the ECB has already circumvented this rule by purchasing around €2tn in public debt from the market, thereby stretching the limits of its mandate to a legally dubious degree.

The latest plans to circumvent the Maastricht treaty will not improve matters. Before the financial crisis, the ECB was concerned only with monetary policy. During the crisis, it turned into a public bailout authority rescuing near-bankrupt banks and governments. Now, it is becoming an economic government that can print its budget as it sees fit.

The impending violation of the spirit of the Maastricht treaty will be twofold: the EU will be assuming debt covertly, and it will be doing so through the printing press. As such, the commission’s plans will further undermine the credibility of the very institution on which Europe relies for its financial and macroeconomic stability and its long-term growth prospects – and this at a time when the world is becoming even more uncertain, competitive and aggressive.

… and never more dangerous than now, as the crisis escalates across the world. The Guardian’s accurate, authoritative journalism has never been more critical – and we will not stay quiet. This is our pledge: we will continue to give global heating, wildlife extinction and pollution the urgent attention and prominence they demand. We recognise the climate emergency as the defining issue of our lifetimes. This month we made an important decision – to renounce fossil fuel advertising, becoming the first major global news organisation to institute an outright ban on taking money from companies that extract fossil fuels.

You’ve read 30 articles in the last four months. We chose a different approach: to keep Guardian journalism open for all. We don’t have a paywall because we believe everyone deserves access to factual information, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.

Our editorial independence means we are free to investigate and challenge inaction by those in power. We will inform our readers about threats to the environment based on scientific facts, not driven by commercial or political interests. And we have made several important changes to our style guide to ensure the language we use accurately reflects the environmental emergency.

The Guardian believes that the problems we face on the climate crisis are systemic and that fundamental societal change is needed. We will keep reporting on the efforts of individuals and communities around the world who are fearlessly taking a stand for future generations and the preservation of human life on earth. We want their stories to inspire hope. We will also report back on our own progress as an organisation, as we take important steps to address our impact on the environment.

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Electric shock: Could Brexit scar Britain’s energy landscape?

Britain’s exit from the EU, which will finally happen on Friday (31 January), has sparked fears of disruption to its electricity market, from higher bills to supply issues and stalled de-carbonisation efforts.

Britain depends on the European Union for much of its electricity supply.

Its own generation fell in 2018 by 1.6%, according to the latest available statistics.

This reduction stems from the gradual shutdown of coal-fired power plants, which is yet to be fully compensated by a rise in wind power.

Imports of electricity and gas have increased in response, predominantly from France, the Netherlands and Ireland, which now account for almost 40% of Britain’s energy consumption.

Britain’s imminent departure from the 28-member EU and its single electricity market therefore represents a risk for an already fragile network, which suffered a big blackout in August.

It will continue to benefit from existing arrangements during a post-Brexit transition phase, while it seeks a new agreement on everything from energy to security cooperation with Brussels.

But it is not clear if these talks will entirely resolve the issue.

British industry regulator Ofgem has said “alternative trading arrangements will need to be developed”, without giving further details.

It insists that whatever deal is struck, it does not “expect Brexit to interrupt the flows of electricity and gas”.

But at times of peak demand, Britain may find itself at the back of the line for electricity.

“EU countries could get preference,” Weijie Mak, of research company Aurora, told AFP.

As with other areas such as finance, agreeing so-called equivalence on things like CO2 emission rules – so countries who produce cleaner and more expensive electricity are not disadvantaged – will be key.

Price rise?

Uncertainty over equivalence and the possible return of tariffs or quotas if trade negotiations falter has left some sceptical that nothing will change post-Brexit.

“The electricity trade will become more expensive,” said Joseph Dutton, policy advisor at climate change think tank E3G. “It could mean higher bills for consumers.”

Trading in electricity across the Channel is currently based on an auction system, which could be upset by Britain’s EU departure.

Eurelectric, the association representing the industry at the European level, sees it as a “lose-lose situation” because of “less efficient gas and power trading”.

The hazy picture has seen the French government put on hold several interconnector projects aimed at better linking the electric power grids of Britain and the continent.

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Sadiq Khan launches his own green energy company – London Power

Sadiq Khan has launched his own green energy company, claiming it will save the average household £300-a-year on bills.

The mayor of London today unveiled London Power, in conjunction with Octopus Energy, as a part of his Energy for Londoners programme.

Read more: New Octopus Energy tarif aims to slash the charging cost of electric cars

The company – which will only be available in London – will act as a non-profit company, with all profit “reinvested into community projects”.

The service will be provided by Octopus Energy and will rely on 100 per cent renewable energy.

Khan said the new energy provider would be within the cheapest 10 per cent of similar tariffs in the market and would save the average household £300 on bills.

“It is a disgrace that many Londoners pay too much to heat and light their homes, with more than a million living in fuel poverty,” he said.

“For the first time we have a fair, affordable, green energy company specially designed for Londoners.”

London Power enters a market that is already home to 64 active suppliers, according to Ofgem.

The energy market watchdog’s 2019 report on the energy market found 53 per cent of consumers had never switched energy companies.

However, the figure for London – where energy prices are among the most expensive in the country – is not known.

Peter Earl, head of energy at Compare the Market, said he welcomed the extra competitio, but that it may be difficult to attract new customers.

“It’s an industry challenge to activate the large section of people who have never changed their energy company,” he said.

“[Khan’s] got an offering that should be attractive to people, but it’s not going to be easy.”

The formation of London Power won plaudits from green energy advocacy groups the Renewable Energy Agency (REA) and National Energy Action.

REA chief executive Nina Skorupska said: “By adopting this model, City Hall has shown themselves to be one of the pioneers in the move towards a Net Zero UK.”

Caroline Russell, Green Party leader in the London Assembly, on the other hand said Khan’s plans did not go far enough.

She said the mayor should have set up the company without the help of Octopus Energy so City Hall could have greater power over the company’s energy resources.

Read more: Sadiq Khan has increased press office spending by 26 per cent in four years

“I’ve argued with him to set up a fully-licensed company – which means wholly owned byLondon – to get the best benefits for Londoners,” she said.

“The mayor seems cautious that there will be any profits to be reinvested, but a company owned and run by the Mayor would be able to support investment in green technologies and create green jobs.

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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.”