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More pace needed on transition, lest net zero become another missed target

  • United Kingdom
  • Energy and infrastructure - Clean energy



Targets are signals, demonstrating ambition. They aim to drive investment and convey a long-term vision for the betterment of the country.

The problem is that they are very rarely met, and renewable energy targets over the last decade are no exception. What then, are the chances of achieving net zero by 2050?

Whenever green energy targets are mentioned, the word “challenging” won’t be too far behind, and not without good reason. It takes the best part of a decade for an offshore wind farm to go through its consenting, design, financing and construction stages to actually get to the point of operation.

Given that the net zero journey is supposed to include 50GW of offshore wind by 2030, and we are currently standing at around 11GW, it’s a long way off.

The two most readily deployable technologies are onshore wind and solar. The former, at least in England, remains a political hot potato. The recent announcement of a potential change in policy to allow local authorities to grant permission even if they haven’t allocated sites in their local plan will hardly open the floodgates.

If that were the blocker, then you might have expected at least some would have tried to allocate sites since 2015, given the number of plans adopted since.

Increasingly, solar is now also not without its political detractors. Both the Welsh Government and the short-lived Truss administration have signalled their concerns over the potential loss of agricultural land, and the growing number of large-scale solar projects entering the planning system will likely be doing so with a degree of trepidation.

Project promoters need certainty as to how their proposals will be judged. Pushing through the revised suite of Energy NPS quickly to deal with the largest schemes in England and Wales will help, but offshore wind cannot do it alone and a positive policy context for solar and onshore wind is needed that is then reflected in decision making.

If not, net zero will be another target added to the missed list. 

This article first appeared in Energy Voice on 2 January 2023.