Household bills could rise if the government further delays its plan to rid the electricity grid of polluting fossil fuels by 2035, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned.
Energy officials committed to the target nearly 18 months ago, but their plan to meet it has been delayed by the energy crisis as they focus on dealing with rising bills, auditors said.
However, today they warned that it was unclear when the new energy department and net zero would come up with a plan to decarbonize the grid, which could further increase household bills.
“The longer it takes for the government to finalize its delivery plan, the greater the risk of not achieving the ambition to decarbonize energy by 2035, or that this will cost consumers more,” warned Simon Bittlestone, director of cost-effectiveness at the NO. studies.
“Energy decarbonisation is really the backbone to achieving net zero, as we are all likely to switch to electric vehicles and potentially use electricity to heat our homes, but it will require a radical shift in investment and modernisation,” he told Sky News.
Electricity generation accounts for 13% of emissions in the UK. About 40% of electricity is generated by fossil gas.
While the country has so far decarbonized faster than any other G7 country, according to government data, demand for electricity is expected to increase by 60% by 2035 as the economy continues to move away from fossil fuels.
Meeting this demand requires a huge increase in renewable wind and solar energy, including building three times as much offshore wind capacity in eight years as in the past two decades.
The government should prioritize lifting an effective ban on onshore wind energy, urged Stuart Dossett, senior policy adviser at the Green Alliance think tank.
“Onshore wind energy is one of the fastest and cheapest forms of electricity we have,” he told Sky News.
The UK shortfall is “preventing us from acting as quickly as we need to to reduce carbon emissions and reduce energy bills”, added Mr. dossett. “Renewables are significantly cheaper than gas, and gas is what’s driving up the price of energy.”
Recent UK prime ministers have changed their minds on onshore wind, and Rishi Sunak’s government is currently holding a consultation on relaxing rules.
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Costs for consumers
The report detailed how Britain’s outdated network is already costing taxpayers and will only increase without a plan.
That’s because when the power generated by a plant exceeds demand, or what the grid can accommodate, power companies have to cap its production, which costs money that is paid by the consumer.
The grid also needs upgrading and expansion to be able to transmit power from where it is produced, for example in Scotland, to where it is needed, potentially in Cornwall.
Auditors warned that the government must decide which technologies will be used to power the UK during calm cloudy days, including batteries for short-term power, long-term energy storage like compressed air, hydrogen from renewable sources and nuclear.
See more information:
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A spokesperson for the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero said that since the energy crisis set in last year “our focus has been on providing essential cost-of-living support, including paying half of a typical household’s energy bills this winter, because this is the main focus for families across the country”.
“We have launched world-leading projects such as our UK Energy Security and Net Zero strategies, with many plans already in place to ensure we are on track to achieve our 2050 net zero target,” they said.
“Our targets are ambitious, however, we haven’t taken our foot off the pedal and our commitment to decarbonizing the UK’s electricity system by 2035 remains resolute.”
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