Government sets out net zero ambitions in energy white paper

Government sets out net zero ambitions in energy white paper.

The UK government has set out its plans to clean up the UK’s energy system, support up to 220,000 British jobs, and keep bills affordable in the transition to net zero by 2050.

Building on the prime minister’s ten-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, announced last month, the energy white paper sets out specific steps the government will take over the next decade to cut emissions from industry, transport, and buildings by 230 million metric tonnes – equivalent to taking 7.5 million petrol cars off the road permanently – while supporting hundreds of thousands of new green jobs.

However, Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, claimed the white paper was “just a reheating of an announcement that’s already been made” and accused the government of “kicking the big decisions into touch”.

Business and energy secretary Alok Sharma said: “Today’s plan establishes a decisive and permanent shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels, towards cleaner energy sources that will put our country at the forefront of the global green industrial revolution.

“Through a major programme of investment and reform, we are determined to both decarbonise our economy in the most cost-effective way, while creating new sunrise industries and revitalising our industrial heartlands that will support new green jobs for generations to come. With this long-term plan, we are turning climate ambition into climate action - putting the UK firmly on the course to net zero to end our contribution to climate change as we build back greener.”

Alongside the energy white paper, the government has also confirmed that it is to enter negotiations with EDF in relation to the Sizewell C project in Suffolk as it considers options to enable investment in at least one nuclear power station by the end of this parliament. 

This is the next step in considering the Sizewell C project, and negotiations will be subject to reaching a value for money deal and all other relevant approvals, before any final decision is taken on whether to proceed. Ministers say the successful conclusion of these negotiations will be subject to thorough scrutiny and needs to satisfy the government’s robust legal, regulatory and national security requirements.

Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive at Energy UK, said: “The energy industry will do our bit to innovate, supporting our customers so that they benefit from the net zero transition and investing in the green infrastructure we need – but clear policies from government help us do that. This is what the white paper – and other publications over the next year – should provide.”

Jacobs Critical Mission Solutions international senior vice president Clive White  said: "Jacobs welcomes the government’s recognition of the important role nuclear energy will have in the UK’s future energy mix and the shift to cleaner energy.  The support for the development of the next generation of nuclear technologies including SMRs and the decision to enter into negotiations on Sizewell C are very positive steps forwards. Nuclear power provides the UK with a resilient baseload capacity, while also creating high paying jobs throughout the UK that make a significant contribution to the country’s net zero commitments to help tackle the climate emergency.”

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the Confederation of British Industry, said: “The energy white paper is an important next step in our plans to reach our net zero emissions target. Business stands ready to deliver the investment and innovation needed to turn ambition into reality, and the proposals outlined in the energy white paper will give business further confidence to deliver new infrastructure, including electric vehicle charging, renewable power generation and low-carbon upgrades to people’s homes.

Hugh McNeal, chief executive at Renewable UK, said: “Today’s white paper provides greater clarity to the companies investing across the UK to deliver our net zero emissions target. To meet the goals set out in the white paper, it’s clear that we have to double-down on renewables as the main source of energy for our homes, transport and industry.”

Hannah Vickers, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, said: “It is positive to see the government moving swiftly to follow-up the ten-point-plan on net zero and the CCC’s Sixth Carbon Budget with tangible actions. By marrying expansion of renewables with progress on nuclear, it has chosen a commonsensical response to the future energy challenges we will face.

“The energy data strategy will lead to the improved management of a much more complex system that will be expected to not only support society’s current needs, but also millions of electric vehicles plugging into the network. Finally, the support for low-carbon and carbon capture clusters is welcome, but we would have preferred to see it linked to regional policy and embedded in a wider industrial strategy.”

Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, said: “We have been waiting years for this energy white paper and what we need and expect is a proper long-term plan. But so far the government appears to be simply kicking big decisions into touch. Nuclear has a role to play in the energy mix going forward and could create jobs, but there is no definitive statement today one way or the other on financing, costs or an overall plan. 

“On the crucial issue of upgrading and changing the way we heat our homes there appears again to be no long-term plan, just a reheating of an announcement that’s already been made. We will look in detail at the white paper but the test is whether the reality matches the government’s rhetoric, and whether the scale of the task is reflected in what is published. So far it does not appear to meet the task.” 

Click here to download the energy white paper: Powering our net zero future.

If you would like to contact Rob O’Connor about this, or any other story, please email