UK energy secretary Grant Shapps has vowed to press ahead with plans to ban the sale of new petrol- and diesel-engined cars by 2030 despite the EU recently agreeing to a possible exemption for vehicles powered by so-called “e-fuels” under a similar scheme.
Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, who on Thursday will unveil measures aimed at boosting energy security and green industries, has come under pressure from some of his own MPs to backpedal on the plan to ban cars solely powered by combustion engines in seven years’ time.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative party leader, said this week that the 2030 deadline was “simply not achievable”.
Brussels recently agreed to introduce an exemption for cars which run on e-fuel, which are made with captured CO₂ and hydrogen, into an EU law that will ban the sale of combustion engines from 2035, after Germany threatened to block it.
But Shapps said the government was sticking with its “path” for a transition to electric vehicles, which would phase out hybrid vehicles from 2035 and has no exemption for e-fuels. “That position remains the same,” he told reporters. “We’ve always been more forward-leaning on this stuff than the EU,” he added.
The UK car industry had also been expecting the government to announce the details of a new “zero emissions mandate” on Thursday, which would compel them to sell a certain proportion of electric vehicles from the start of 2024.
But instead, officials said the government planned to launch another consultation on the mandate later this week to “provide certainty to the sector”.
The auto industry has called for clarity on how the new mandate will work, with the proposed implementation date just nine months away. Some carmakers have called for concessions that would allow them to offset any shortfalls in the early years with a higher proportion of electric vehicle sales later in the decade.
The broader energy security and green package will extend a programme that offers £5,000 grants to households installing electric heat pumps until 2028, in a bid to encourage a shift away from gas boilers. But it will not accept a recommendation in a recent net zero review by former energy minister Chris Skidmore to bring forward a ban on new gas boilers from 2035 to 2033.
The government will also announce a consultation on speeding up planning approvals for solar power facilities and offshore wind farms. It will also look at providing incentives to local communities by offering the prospect of cheaper power if they accept the building of onshore wind farms — part of a broader easing of a de facto ban on the controversial projects.
The government will also open the bidding for the fifth round of subsidy auctions for new renewable energy projects, with an initial budget of £205mn
Thursday’s announcements are already being criticised for falling well short of the level of state support being provided for green industries by the US in its $369bn Inflation Reduction Act and through a similar EU package. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday the government would publish a detailed response to the US green legislation in the autumn.
Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College London, said the government had “yet again” missed the opportunity to “radically change the UK energy production and market”.