Government to reform wind sector in net-zero push

Offshore wind farm permissions in the UK will be fast-tracked to accelerate the green energy transition, following a record-breaking heatwave and intensified calls for climate change action.

The wide-ranging reforms of the wind sector included in the Energy Bill feature a push to reduce the approval times for marine turbine projects from four years down to only one. 

Parliament has debated the bill for the first time in the House of Lords, against a backdrop of record-breaking temperatures and spiralling energy bills fuelling a cost-of-living crisis.

“This bill is an ambitious piece of legislation and allows the necessary reform of our energy system," Lord Callanan said. “We are charged with a great responsibility to ensure the security, the affordability and the decarbonisation of our energy supply for many generations to come."

The government has said the legislation aims to increase the resilience and reliability of energy systems across the UK, support the delivery of climate change targets and overhaul the sector while minimising costs to households and protecting them from unfair pricing.

In order to pave the way for a smooth transition to a low-carbon energy system, the bill establishes measures to help the industry step up investment in electric heat pumps –  a clean alternative to gas boilers – as well as curb rocketing bills by extending the price cap beyond 2023 if needed.

“The cap is the best safety net for 22 million households, preventing suppliers from overcharging consumers,” Callanan said. 

However, not all speakers expressed support for the legislation, as some feel it is not ambitious enough and will therefore be unable to meet the demands of both the climatic and the cost-of-living crises. 

“There are millions of families facing the catastrophe of soaring energy bills. I am afraid the Bill is another missed opportunity that doesn’t tackle the scale of the issue,” said Labour frontbencher Baroness Blake. “Long-term reform of the energy market is, of course, necessary, but it must come alongside urgent action to cut bills, strengthen our energy security and tackle the climate crisis now.”

Tory former energy secretary Lord Howell of Guildford also considered the bill as “disappointing”, given the need for a coordinated global response to increasing energy security and tackling climate change.

In January, the government announced a £31m fund to help drive further deployment of floating offshore wind projects, and earlier this month, it secured 11 gigawatts of winning bids for various renewable technologies at a record-low price.

The energy obtained from these renewable sources amounts to 14 per cent of the UK’s total current electricity capacity and is enough to power around 12 million homes, according to officials. 

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