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Planning system an ‘important barrier’ to decarbonising UK electricity grid

Lord Turner was speaking to the Lords Economic Affairs Committee (Alamy/PA)
Lord Turner was speaking to the Lords Economic Affairs Committee (Alamy/PA)

The planning and permission system is what sits in the way of the UK decarbonising its electricity network, while the financial muscle is there, a former chair of the Climate Change Committee has said.

Lord Turner of Ecchinswell said that the UK needed to electrify as much of its economy as possible and remove fossil fuels from its electricity system.

“What are the most important barriers to doing that fast enough? I think they’re really not the economics any longer, they are everything to do with the pace at which we plan and we permit new generation, new transmission and new distribution,” he said.

Weighing into the discussion on onshore wind, he called for an honest discussion.

“We could go forward with onshore electricity, wind, it’s definitely the cheapest way for the UK to produce electricity now,” he said.

“We could say that we don’t want to do that for aesthetic reasons, but if we do that we will impose a cost penalty, offshore will be more expensive than onshore.”

He said the choice is simple: “You either have to say yes to onshore, or you have to say no I’m going to do other technologies and accept that they are more expensive. Or you have to say that I didn’t believe in these targets in the first place.”

Lord Turner, who is now chair of energy and transitions commission, Institute for New Economic Thinking, said that the UK faced a major challenge to heat its homes in a green way.

Speaking on the Lords Economic Affairs Committee, he said that private businesses were likely to fund the transition of the electricity system. But on heating, around 25 million households would need to spend money to ensure that their houses were heated in an environmentally green way.

This would mean adding insulation – the UK has the worst-insulated homes in Europe – and switching from gas boilers to heat pumps and similar technologies.

He called for direct Government help for the bottom 30% of households and to use mortgages and cheap loans to help out middle earners.