“I want to achieve things and really move the dial forward,” says Kwasi Kwarteng MP, who has stepped up to become secretary of state at BEIS as Alok Sharma MP moves to take on a full time role as COP 26 president.
In a filmed interview with Chris Lambert of the Westminster Forum made public on 8 January, Kwarteng discussed major themes of the Energy White Paper, stressing that would be “It is a plural set of technologies… not one single winner” that would deliver a Net Zero energy industry – pointing out immediately that the government had reopened a Contracts for Difference ‘funding pot’ for onshore wind and solar.
He said that electricity industry would be delivering several times its current supply in future. It was clear that he saw nuclear as an important component of that, saying it was, “The only way we can get decarbonised firm power which isn’t intermittent …
“We will need a source of power that isn’t fluctuating, that isn’t dependent on the wind blowing and the sun shining”.
He said, “Once you have accepted that nuclear is part of the mix” you have to think about which plant to support. In the 2030s, he suggested, the government expected small modular reactors to be deployed and advanced reactors in the following decade. But “At the moment there is still a commitment to giga-scale [plant]. Sizewell C is well placed for that but there are other projects that could come on stream.”
He said of discussions with EDF over Sizewell C, “it’s a commercial transaction. We have to figure out the best financial package in terms of how it is structured, the ownership, the balance between debt and equity – and it is something on the table still, whether the government puts taxpayers’ money in as a form of equity investment. There are all these issues to be worked out.” The government has committed to a final investment decision before the end of this parliament but “The Treasury holds the purse strings and they will make a decision”.
He highlighted carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) alongside nuclear in supplying hydrogen - saying that “if hydrogen takes off it could play an important role”. And he promised that after false starts on CCUS “more than any other time, this thing is happening”.
Kwarteng said that he foresaw electric vehicle ‘tipping points’ ahead, comparing the technology’s growth to consumers’ wholesale – and rapid – uptake of smart phones.
Kwarteng said that the Energy White Paper was focused on a fair deal for consumers,
committing to an extension of the ECO energy efficiency programme and highlighting the Warm Homes Discount and Green Homes programmes. He said “we’ve learned our lessons” on rolling out domestic programmes, promising more quality assurance and an accelerating disbursement of funds.
Responding to fears over a digital divide on energy he said, “the IT revolution has not hit the energy market in the way that it might have done” and saying it had lots of potential for benefitting consumers. “Not every home in 2050 will have a heat pump” but we would like to see it where appropriate, he said, while agreeing that hydrogen could play a substantial part in decarbonising homes.
See the full interview here