THE run-up to the COP26 climate change jamboree in Glasgow later this year is probably not going as well as the government would like. Despite being committed to Net Zero by Mrs May’s undebated and uncosted statutory instrument, the size of the likely costs can’t be hidden for ever and the guardian of the magic money tree, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, is fretting.
I have just produced a short book on Net Zero (brazen plug, you can buy it here) and, having spent several months trawling through the government’s own numbers, have reached the conclusions that the costs are huge (and possibly more than that). Replacing fossil fuels means we have to produce our energy from nuclear and renewables. At the moment they provide just about 10 per cent of our energy requirements. Making up the shortfall needs 30 to 50 Sizewell Cs, or 300 to 500 Small Modular Reactors, or 17,000 to 28,000 new offshore wind turbines. It will also need the electricity distribution grid to more or less quadruple in size. (The uncertainly primarily comes from whether Mr Gove can convert 25million homes to heat pumps, or whether we adopt hydrogen).
The cost of the generation alone comes out at something like £1trillion. Add to that car chargers, heat pumps, hydrogen electrolysers and suchlike and the costs could double. Or more.
The cost of energy will also rise. A report from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in 2016 (when Mrs May imposed Net Zero) forecast that the price of electricity would increase by at least 50 per cent. Which means that the UK is likely to be operating on a higher cost base than those economies which have not yet followed our lead and declared a net zero target. That’s most of the world – only Bhutan, Suriname, Uruguay, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Austria and Germany have followed Mrs May’s quixotic charge. I’m not sure Germany is serious – 25 per cent of its power comes from coal and it is phasing out nuclear power.
Hilariously (or tragically) the government is threatening to crack down on ‘greenwashing’, by which they mean the habit of suppliers claiming that buying their product saves the planet. Yet our political leaders maintain that it will all be fine, that Net Zero is achievable and all we need to do is plant some trees. If they looked at their own data they would know that this is not the case.
To cite one example, every now and then one of them will trumpet about carbon capture, use and storage. Capturing CO2 is tricky and expensive. The world CO2 demand is some 230million tons per year (mostly for the oil and food industries). That’s less than half of the UK’s current CO2 emissions. There is no chance of widescale use of CO2 captured in the UK.
Of course there is already ample legislation on what may or may not be said in advertisements. New legislation is unnecessary.
As we have seen during the pandemic, this government has a habit of deploying misleading graphs and generally being economical with the truth. If they really wanted to improve the flow of information to the public they would apply the current law to their own presentations.
Hell will freeze over before that happens.