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UK set to miss 2035 target for green electricity, say MPs

The UK is on track to fail to meet its targets to generate all of its electricity without burning gas by the middle of next decade, risking its environmental plans and putting energy security at risk, MPs have warned.

Ministers have not provided “strategic leadership” and there is no coherent, overarching plan, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said in a report released on Friday.

The cross-party group, which includes Conservative MPs, said the way that windfall taxes on energy generators and oil companies were structured favoured the latter group.

It also said that the Government was not tackling the cost of developing new wind and solar farms, among other things.

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Costs have soared in recent months as supply chains were put under pressure.

Committee chairman Darren Jones said: “Ministers think that publishing strategies and releasing social media videos will deliver the energy infrastructure the country needs. It’s failed before and it keeps failing.

“The UK is now competing with the US and Europe for investment. 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 warning comes two days after Lord Hill of Oareford, who led a review into the UK’s public listing scheme, warned that Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act was attracting money that could otherwise have been invested in the UK

“It’s like a dirty great Hoover is on full suction mode,” he told MPs on the Treasury Select Committee.

“The way that is re-enforcing a mentality that the US is sort of where you want to be for business is clearly a factor.”

He added: “I don’t see how one can begin to compete with the scale of the subsidy that the Americans are pumping into it, which is massive.”

The BEIS committee’s report is the latest in a series of warnings that the UK is set to miss its 2035 electricity targets.

Last month both the National Audit Office and the Climate Change Committee – the official Government advisers – warned that the country risked missing the target.

These warnings came less than a year after centre-right think tank Onward said the same, while Danish wind company Orsted warned that the 2030 target to build 50 gigawatts of offshore wind is likely to fail.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: “We are taking real decisions to benefit this country: to deliver a secure, low-cost and low-carbon energy system, to decarbonise the UK’s electricity system by 2035, and to reduce energy bills across the UK.”

MPs also called on energy regulator Ofgem to audit the claims that Drax – which burns wood to produce electricity – used to get Government subsidies for green power projects.

Drax says that because the carbon that is released by the trees it burns – which it calls biomass – was recently absorbed by those same trees it is not adding to the levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

But its critics say that this only works if Drax only uses highly sustainable wood, and a BBC Panorama programme last year claimed that the company was importing high-grade wood from virgin forest to burn in the UK.

It is estimated that Drax will get £11 billion in subsidies between 2011 and 2027.

Mr Jones said: “It’ll be hard enough to meet the challenge of cutting carbon emissions in energy without the prospect of any operators taking advantage of the subsidy regime.

“If any firm is found to be abusing the public purse by falsely inflating their renewable credentials, they should face consequences.

“We are not against bioenergy, but oppose it when it’s based on unsustainable sources.”

Drax said: “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.

“With confused views like this, the UK is becoming a potentially unattractive place to do business and invest in, and companies are looking at more welcoming countries to spend their money.”