Here we look at what’s going well, and where work still needs to be done.
The Government has set ambitious targets for making the UK economy greener, through net zero infrastructure commitments, increasing the number of electric vehicles on our roads.
So with the ban on petrol and diesel cars and vans less than seven years away, and a plan to have a net zero economy by 2050, how are we doing, and how likely are we to hit those targets?
Greener energy generation
According to Misson Zero, the independent report into net zero progress, the move to greener power generation is going well.
It said: “Progress since 2019 has exceeded expectations. In setting the net zero target, the UK was building on the progress for many years – not least a quiet transformation of our power system, from one dominated by coal to one increasingly driven by a clean and endless supply of wind blowing across the North Sea.
“Renewable energy costs are dropping sharply. UK offshore wind prices fell by 70% since 2014, with offshore, onshore, and solar dropping below the cost of fossil fuels, promising a society in the very near future where the sun and wind meet most of our energy needs.”
Green technologies need more investment if they are to work. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) report last year estimated that an additional £13.5 billion of investment was needed in 2022, rising to £50-60 billion per year by the early 2030s to meet the UK’s net zero goals.
This investment will primarily come from the private sector, but in Mission Zero it said that “government investment has a crucial role to play in funding R&D, major infrastructure, and incentivising investment in early-stage technologies that will be critical for the transition.”
It noted that the US government has committed more than $370 billion to clean energy, and said: “Without fast and decisive action, this will see the UK losing opportunities to other countries and failing to position itself as a global partner for trade and collaboration around net zero.”
The last year has been a difficult time for car and van making in the UK, and while it’s not an imperative that electric vehicles are made in the UK, it can help availability and prices if there is a steady supply of new models being made in your home market.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The potential for this sector to deliver economic growth by building more of these zero emission models is self-evident, however, we must make the right decisions now.
“This means shaping a strategy to drive rapid upscaling of UK battery production and the shift to electric vehicles based on the UK automotive sector’s fundamental strengths – a highly skilled and flexible workforce, engineering excellence, technical innovation and productivity levels that are amongst the best in Europe.”
In its 2022 EV infrastructure strategy, the Government said it will deliver the 300,000 chargers by 2030 it believes are necessary when the sale of new petrol and diesel-only vehicles end.
As of January 1 2023, there were 37,055 public electric vehicle charging devices installed in the UK, which is an increase of 8,680, a 31% increase on 12 months previously.
The number of rapid and ultra-rapid charging devices increased by 34%, an additional 1,731 public devices installed.
300,000 looks a long way off from less than 40,000 currently, but if expansion continues at the same rate, with a third more installed every year than the year before, by 2030 there will be just over 230,000 chargers. That’s fewer than the Government predicted, but not hugely far off, especially when you add longer ranges of EVs in 2030 and increased home charging into the mix.
The issue that is most pressing is uneven regional distribution. Currently, Northern Ireland had the lowest level of charging device provision in the UK, with 19 devices per 100,000, followed by the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber with 31 and 36 devices per 100,000 respectively.
London, by comparison has 131 per 100,000 with Scotland second at 69 per 100,000.
If we are to hit 2030 for EVs and 2050 for net zero, it’s clear there are two major areas that will create the conditions for success: political will and enough investment. These two go hand-in-hand in many ways.
The development of green energy in the UK is coming along, and there is certainly a desire among consumers to drive EVs. But these two elements of the transition are at both ends of the chain. In the middle, technology, infrastructure and product are the areas that still need work.