UK electricity to be powered by clean energy sources from 2035, Boris Johnson says

Ambition set out in run-up to crucial COP26 summit in November

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 04 October 2021 13:34 BST
Boris Johnson promises clean energy production by 2035

All electricity in the UK should be produced from clean sources by 2035, prime minister Boris Johnson has announced.

The target means a rapid switch from the remaining coal and gas-fired power stations to wind, solar and nuclear energy within 15 years, with fossil fuels used only with carbon capture and storage technology to avoid greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmentalist group Greenpeace UK welcomed the new target, but said that the transition away from climate change fuels would be made “slower and more expensive” because of the government’s insistence on continuing to make nuclear part of Britain’s future energy mix.

And Liberal Democrats accused the Conservatives of “dropping enough balls to fill a creche” on clean energy, pointing to official figures showing renewables growth slowing sharply in the last six years, after quadrupling under the coalition.

Mr Johnson’s initiative comes after the government set a goal of ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 as part of a drive for net-zero emissions by 2050.

The prime minister is hoping to encourage other nations to commit to net-zero targets at the crucial COP26 climate summit which he will chair in Glasgow next month, with the aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Speaking on a visit to a Network Rail site during the Conservative conference in Manchester, Mr Johnson said: “We can do for our entire energy production by 2035 what we’re doing with internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030.

“From 2030, you won’t be able to buy any more a new hydrocarbon-fuelled internal combustion engine car and we’re going to move either to EVs (electric vehicles) or vehicles powered by hydrogen or clean power of one kind or another.

“And that will make a huge difference to our CO2 output, to controlling climate change, to the planet, but it will also put the UK at the forefront of this amazing new industry of clean vehicles.

“And what we’re also saying is that by 2035, looking at the progress we’re making in wind power - where we lead the world now in offshore wind - looking at what we can do with other renewable sources, carbon capture and storage with hydrogen potentially, we think that we can get to complete clean energy production by 2035.”

The prime minister said a shift to renewable energy sources by 2035 would protect consumers from fluctuating import prices for oil and gas.

“The advantage of that is that it will mean that, for the first time, the UK is not dependent on hydrocarbons coming from overseas with all the vagaries in hydrocarbon prices and the risk that poses for people’s pockets and for the consumer,” he said.

“We will be reliant on our own clean power generation, which will help us also to keep costs down.”

Greenpeace UK chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said: “All senior politicians have now realised that gas needs to be taken out of the electricity system. That realisation is to be welcomed, as is the 2035 decarbonisation target.

“But the government remains unhealthily attached to nuclear technology, hoping against all experience that it will improve to the point where it becomes competitive with renewables.

“As we have learned over the last 70 years, nuclear just doesn’t get cheaper. The case for large-scale reactors is weakening day by day as it becomes more and more obvious that the future of energy is a decentralised, flexible grid that makes use of new storage technologies whose costs are falling sharply, as well as cheap and rapidly deployable renewables.

“Trying to prop up the nuclear industry will just make that transition slower and more expensive.”

Lib Dem energy spokesperson Wera Hobhouse pointed to Business Department figures showing UK renewables capacity grew almost fourfold from 8 to 31GW between 2009 and 2015, but had since increased by little more than 50 per cent to 48GW.

“The Conservatives have utterly neglected the UK renewables industry to the point where coal power stations are being fired up,” she said.

“It’s insulting that the prime minister is talking a good game on green electricity whilst families are left feeling the pinch this winter, thanks in no small part to the UK’s overreliance on gas and Government inaction on renewables.”

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