Energy crisis: UK to slash net zero red tape in MAJOR U-turn to keep lights on this winter

Naga Munchetty skewers chief of Ofgem over energy costs

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As bills continue to skyrocket amid a crippling crisis, the Government is scrambling to bolster its energy security by any means necessary. Now, Whitehall officials have proposed that coal and gas stations that are set to provide backup supply in 2023 should not need reports on their emissions signed off by an independent expert. It comes after the UK already ordered coal-fired plants to stay open this winter amid concerns of an energy crunch.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wrote to the owners of the three remaining coal-fired power plants in the UK in a plea to get them to keep their turbines running, despite being set to close in September.

The UK has also committed to stop burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, for power completely by October 2024 to help the country reach its climate targets.

This all comes as Russia has sparked panic in Europe, already cutting off gas to several nations and has warned that it will slash supplies to countries refusing to pay for its gas in rubles.

While Britain only gets around four percent of its gas from Russia, it has indirectly been feeling the impacts of earlier cuts from the Kremlin due to the integrated nature of the market.

This is partially why bills have been surging, so much so that the energy price cap (maximum annual tariff) is expected to hit £2,800 in October.

Now, officials are hoping to scrap certain net zero restrictions that place limits and checks on the use of fossil fuels.

Under rules drawn up in 2019, fossil fuel facilities bidding to take part in National Grid ESO’s market for backup power supply have set limits when declaring their carbon emissions.

Westminster wants to make it compulsory for these declarations to be verified by independent experts.

But officials are concerned by the delays in finding enough people with the accreditation to carry out the verification process.

They fear some plants will not be able to qualify to provide backup supply for the winter of 2023-2024 if independent verification is compulsory.

To swerve this issue, officials are hoping to postpone this requirement for a year.

This would mean that plants can take part in the auction to provide backup power for 2023.

The Whitehall officials warned that a failure to act on this could result in lower competition and spark rising prices and “risks to the security of supply”.

And the Government thinks that there is only a “low” risk that plants would lie about their emissions claims without an independent verifier.

But as mentioned above, the UK had been planning to phase out coal by 2024 in a bid to reach net zero emissions by 2024.

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Currently, gas-fired plants provide the most electricity, accounting for around 37 percent of supplies last year.

Meanwhile, only two percent of electricity was generated by coal in 2020.

In June 2021, the UK committed to phasing out coal a year earlier than originally planned.

It comes as countries scramble to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees following warnings from UN climate experts that humanity is reaching code red for impending climate change disaster unless this is avoided.

Britain also has a crucial part to play, and slashing the use of the most carbon-intensive energy source had been a priority of the Government.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Coal powered the industrial revolution 200 years ago, but now is the time for radical action to completely eliminate this dirty fuel from our energy system.

“Today we’re sending a clear signal around the world that the UK is leading the way in consigning coal power to the history books and that we’re serious about decarbonising our power system so we can meet our ambitious, world-leading climate targets.

“The UK’s net zero future will be powered by renewables, and it is this technology that will drive the green industrial revolution and create new jobs across the country.”

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