"The paper acknowledges that decarbonising the power sector has led the UK's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and recognises the growth in operational offshore wind from just over 1GW in 2010 to 10GW in 2019. It reiterates that clean electricity generation must increase fourfold to achieve the net zero target."
"The paper stops short of prescribing a particular generation mix for 2050, saying it would be inadvisable to do so, and instead leaves it to the electricity market to find the best solutions to very low emissions, reliable supply and low cost to consumers. Even so, it is acknowledged that 'a low-cost, net zero consistent system is likely to be composed predominantly of wind and solar'," he said.
"The paper may have been a long time coming but there is much in it that will support renewable energy proposals whilst the review of the energy-related NPS is undertaken. It also explicitly provides 'a strong signal to project developers and the wider investor community about the government's commitment to delivering clean electricity ... this should stimulate the continued deployment of low carbon technologies in the near term'," he said.
The paper is built around 13 commitments which, according to the government, will transform the UK's energy system from one historically based on fossil fuel use to one that is fit for a net zero economy. It is aiming to cut 230 million metric tonnes of emissions generated by industry, transport and buildings over the next decade while creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs and keeping bills affordable for consumers.
The government intends to have "overwhelmingly decarbonised" the UK power system by the 2030s through its plans to quadruple offshore wind generation capacity to 40GW by 2030; incentivise low carbon hydrogen production and invest £1 billion in CCS by 2030, to be delivered in four 'low carbon clusters' in traditionally industrial areas. New nuclear will also form part of the low carbon generation mix where there is "clear value for money for consumers and taxpayers".
The paper also contains a commitment to support oil and gas workers and the communities who will be most affected by the shift away from fossil fuels, targeting the "expertise" of those in these sectors for new jobs in developing CCS and hydrogen production.
Oil and gas expert Bob Ruddiman of Pinsent Masons said: "All eyes will now be on the Oil and Gas Authority's (OGA) Strategy and the eagerly anticipated oil and gas sector deal to see what this support and guidance will look like".
"The oil and gas industry has an important role to play in helping the UK achieve 'net zero' and the ambitions set out in the Energy White Paper, and has long been a source of innovation and technological development as it grapples with the complex energy challenge," he said.
The government's vision is "to establish itself as a world leader in terms of the deployment of clean hydrogen and CCUS in the UK", with "eye-catching ambitions" set out in both the paper and the previous 10-Point Plan, said environment and climate change expert Stacey Collins of Pinsent Masons.
"However, the detail of how the government will get the necessary projects from an aspiration to a reality is still awaited," he said.