I watched Jonathan Ashworth MP on Channel 4 trying in vain to answer a question about how a new Labour government would manage to generate 100% of electricity from carbon-free sources by 2030.
It is fair to say he struggled. As well he would as it’s quite impossible to do what he suggested given that we are still utterly reliant on gas and will continue to be so until either there is more nuclear in the mix, much more storage, the grid gets much better, new technology comes into play, or home insulation gets beefed up – or all of these. Ashworth warbled about building more wind turbines but could not get round the question as to what happens when the wind doesn’t blow – like the other day (as I drafted this) when 56% of electricity came via gas generators.
It's Labour policy – a pledge no less – to have carbon-free electricity by 2030, whereas it's UK government policy to do this by 2035. So when / if it becomes a government, maybe 2030 will quietly go the way of most pledges and it will be 2035.*
But even 2035 is looking iffy. The Climate Change Committee is saying that the government has lost its way on energy policy. It blamed the lack of a coherent strategy, and poor regulatory and (of course) planning systems. I think that 'poor' in relation to planning means the guidance in place to prevent wind turbines being erected in places with high landscape sensitivity.
Currently (no pun intended), about 60% of annual electricity production is low-carbon – from wind, solar, biomass and nuclear, but power demand is set to increase 50% as and when (I think that should be "if") people switch to electric cars and heat pumps.
The Climate Change Committee says that renewable sources of energy will provide about 70% of electricity from 2035, with an additional 2o% from nuclear and the final 10% of coming from "pioneering technologies not yet built at commercial scale" (eg, hydrogen power stations and gas plants with carbon capture and storage).
We shall see. The energy secretary is to publish a revised net zero strategy next month. Meanwhile the 2030 fantasy plays out more as virtue signalling rhetoric than serious policy. This is particularly true in education, and I'll say more about that next week.
* When I typed 2035 it came out as 3035 which I took to be a Freudian slip. With a bit of luck, I might manage to make it to 2035 to see what happens, but I fear 3035 may well be out of reach.