UK Lawmakers Warn Government Set to Miss Net-Zero Power Goal

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(Bloomberg) -- The UK is set to miss its target for a net-zero power grid because it lacks coherent policies to attract investors, a committee of lawmakers said.

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Delays to grid connections, planning constraints and an uncompetitive business environment all mean the country is unlikely to achieve its goal of decarbonizing the power supply system by 2035, Parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said in a report on Friday.

“The UK is now competing with the US and Europe for investment,” said committee chair Darren Jones in a statement. “Government must urgently make us an attractive investment proposition again and ensure that the pool of capital and labour available for building low-carbon energy projects is not lost.”

The criticism reinforces the findings of an independent climate change watchdog, which last month said the government was unlikely to reach its net-zero power target. The UK has struggled to cut red tape delaying renewable-energy projects and faces intensifying competition from the US, which is promising bumper subsidies for green energy development.

The BEIS committee said grid companies needed to ease network constraints that lead to wind farms being paid to switch off, while more onshore wind should be allowed by the planning system. Oil and gas firms also came under scrutiny for failing to be transparent with the committee about their levels of investment in non-fossil fuel technology.

The government was also criticized for its failure on energy efficiency and urged to publish details of its nuclear power pipeline. The opposition Labour Party, which says the government should aim for a decarbonized system five years head of the 2035 schedule, plans to start a national power firm to invest in technology and energy security.

Biomass Subsidies

Biomass-fired power generator Drax Group Plc also came under fire. Lawmakers said they did not believe that “the historic allocation of subsidies to large scale biomass, such as Drax, has represented either value for money or the best use of public funds.”

The committee said subsidies to bioenergy plants that don’t capture emissions when they burn wood pellets should not be extended beyond 2027. That stance may clash with plans for Drax, which is in talks with the government on “bridging options” if it can’t implement carbon capture when subsidies end in 2027.

“This report complains that the UK is on course to miss its renewable power targets whilst simultaneously calling on government to effectively stop supporting the country’s single biggest generator of renewable power,” a spokesperson for Drax said in a statement, adding the view was “confused” and risked making the UK less attractive to investment.

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