Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has boosted the transport sector with £2bn investment for zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) as well as planning reform to accelerate charge point infrastructure, speeding up grid connections for clean energy, and supporting sustainable aviation.
The news is accompanied by a raft of 110 reforms and policies, which Hunt joked at the dispatch box would be too many to announce individually.
The £2bn cash investment, which comes from a larger £4.5bn manufacturing pot announced by Hunt, will be made available to support the manufacturing, supply chain and development of ZEVs.
Low carbon and clean energy
For the transport and energy sectors, there were a number of other important announcements. The National Planning Policy Framework will be changed to prioritise charge point construction, and in addition, the sustainable aviation sector was further accelerated with a £975m sum to develop low and zero carbon technology.
A further £960m is also due to be provided for clean energy manufacturing intiatives. Also in terms of energy, there has been an acceptance of the Winser Review’s recommendations to improve grid connections.
Ofgem’s CEO Jonathan Brearley welcomed the government’s statement, stating the Connections Action Plan (CAP) would accelerate wind, solar and battery power generation connecting to the electricity grid – critical to meeting demand for renewable energy to hit the UK’s 2050 net zero target.
Ofgem welcomed the government’s Transmission Acceleration Action Plan, which set out a programme to halve the time to build new transmission infrastructure – down from current average timelines of 12 and 14 years.
Lawrence Slade, Chief Executive of the Energy Networks Association, welcomed the news from the Statement, saying they will “hearten everyone working hard to enable net zero”.
He said: “We need to use every tool in the box to accelerate grid connections and ensure the country can deliver the critical infrastructure it needs as quickly as possible.
“It’s great to see the government acting on the need for planning reform, including the publication of revised energy National Policy Statements. We also welcome the intent to ensure there are direct benefits for the communities hosting critical energy infrastructure and the steps set out in the government’s Connections Action Plan.”
“Steps taken by the electricity network operators, Ofgem and ESO (the system operator) have already helped to ensure nearly 50GW of capacity is being made available to customers in 2023. That’s almost the equivalent of the UK’s peak electricity demand. The steps announced today will help increase that even further over the coming months and years.”
Motoring groups also welcomed the news of the £2bn investment into EV sector, although the AA said it would still like to see further moves in the Spring Budget.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport, the trade association for the bus and coach sector, said it was “good news” for buses and coaches.
CPT’s CEO Graham Vidler said: “The government now needs to ensure a significant proportion of this funding is invested in delivering greater battery ranges for buses and coaches and a sustainable model for hydrogen fuel cells, to accelerate the bus and coach sectors’ transition to zero emission.”
The UK100 group of local leaders for net zero and clean air also welcomed the news but said that the reforms were “ultimately workarounds for a planning system that fails to put local climate action at its heart.
Christopher Hammond, Chief Executive of UK100, said: “Local leaders will be pleased that the beauty parade of local government funding is receding with the local funding simplification doctrine coming into force in January 2024. It is something UK100 and our members have been calling for years. This is a step in the right direction but we have a long way to go in empowering our regions from one of the most centralised states in the Western world.”
The news about the West Midlands gigafactory site being included in the region’s investment zone was also welcomed by the local politician for the area.
Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs, Regeneration and Climate Change at Coventry City Council said, “Our site is a prime location offering future investors an all-in-one solution for battery manufacturing, research, industrialisation and recycling. Today’s announcement delivers significant additional tax incentives and breaks, making the site even more attractive for future investors.
“The West Midlands Gigafactory, the UK centre of electrification in Coventry, is the only available site in the UK with planning permission in place for a large-scale battery production facility with capacity for up to 60GWh per annum – enough to power 600,000 electric vehicles. It is perfectly placed as a pioneering centre of excellence for battery technology and manufacturing, located at the heart of the UK’s manufacturing industry.”