Weekly News Review - 3rd April 2023

UK Net Zero plan fails to meet emissions targets

The government published a new Net Zero plan on Thursday which contains several policies covering carbon, capture and storage (CCS), nuclear, biomass, solar and electric vehicles. However, the plan was met with intense criticism for a lack of new investment and, by the government’s own admission, a failure to meet the legally binding emissions targets.

The government were forced to release the 1,000 page strategy following a high court decision that ruled the existing plans were not sufficient to meet its climate targets. The “Powering up Britain” strategy contains more detail than previous with plans to store CO2 under the North Sea and speed up the planning process for new renewable developments.

Energy security minister Graham Stuart told the House of Commons the package would “underpin the UK’s clean energy transition, create new jobs and investment, protect consumers and businesses from volatile international energy markets, and drive us towards net zero.”

However, scientists and politicians have criticised the plan saying that it doesn’t go far enough in reducing emissions and the lack of new investment puts the UK behind other countries in the battle for public sector investment. It was pointed out that most of the policies set out on Thursday had already been announced and the continued focus on unproven technologies, such as CCS, would not help to reduce bills and emissions in the short term.

Dr Chris Jones, an expert in climate change at the University of Manchester, said: “This latest government energy strategy is a weak response to the UK’s zero carbon energy needs. The regressive measures on fossil fuels won’t make any real impact on our bills and energy security, but they are enough to downgrade the UK’s role as a leader in tackling climate change.”

There was also criticism about the lack of new policies or investment for home insulation. Dr Paul Balcombe, senior lecturer in chemical engineering and renewable energy at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The most sustainable way to be low carbon and increase security is to reduce our energy demand: the stated intention of insulating 300,000 out of 20 million homes is clearly insufficient when we have such a poorly insulated housing stock.”

Waste permits issued for Sizewell C nuclear plant

The proposed Sizewell C nuclear power station has been granted environmental permits for the disposal of waste by the government regulator. The permits, issued by the Environment Agency, will cover waste from the new plant, its build, commissioning and operating, as well as the ongoing decommissioning of Sizewell A.

EDF subsidiary, NNB Generation Company (SZC) Limited, applied for the permits in May 2020, which will allow it to dispose of and discharge radioactive waste, operate standby power supply systems using diesel generators and discharge cooling water and liquid effluent into the North Sea. The Environment Agency consulted on the application from July to October 2020 and on their proposed decision and draft permits from July to September 2022.

The Environment Agency’s Sizewell C Project Manager, Simon Barlow, said: “Today’s decision to issue the three permits for these operational activities comes after 10 years of pre-application discussions, three years of technical assessments and two public consultations. In reaching this decision we carefully considered all the responses from a wide range of stakeholders in the local community, national organisations and statutory consultees.”

He added: “By granting these permits many years ahead of Sizewell C operating, we can positively influence the design, procurement, and commissioning of the power station, whilst also ensuring that people and the environment are protected.”

However, Paul Collins, chairman of Stop Sizewell C, said: “We are disappointed with the granting of these permits, but it must be remembered that Sizewell C still has no permits for construction and has numerous other regulatory and financial obstacles to overcome.”

“We are especially disappointed with the water discharge permit as, unlike at Hinkley Point C where the government agrees that an acoustic fish deterrent is needed to reduce fish deaths, the Environment Agency has decided none is necessary at Sizewell C. This will result in thousands of fish dying every day in Sizewell C’s cooling system.”

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