The Energy White Paper 2020: An analysis

  • Date: 29/12/20
  • Press Release, Global Warming Policy Foundation

London, 29 December: The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is today publishing a short study of the emissions abatement costs revealed in the recently published UK Energy White Paper, Powering Our Net Zero Future.


The study shows that the UK government has prepared a full estimate of the costs of decarbonising the electricity supply industry, but has only published fragments, amounting to about 10% of the total, and has buried them in an appendix to an annex to the White Paper.

Even from the limited information so far published, it is clear that the costs are extremely high, many times higher than the harm done by carbon dioxide – the so-called “social cost of carbon”.

Furthermore, the government’s estimates are critically sensitive to the cost of wind power, about which government is unrealistically optimistic. An empirically grounded assessment of wind power costs suggest that the costs required to deliver Net Zero by 2050, with demanding interim milestone targets for 2030, will be extremely high, well in excess of £250/tCO2e, at least five times the mainstream value for the social cost of carbon.Costs at this level imply a total annual abatement cost in 2050 of up to £80 billion a year. This would, almost certainly, make the electricity on which Net Zero depends to decarbonise heat and transport essentially unaffordable.

Dr John Constable, GWPF energy editor, and author of the study, said:

“The long awaited Energy White Paper is long on graphic design and sales talk and very short on convincing economic reasoning. The public is being asked to take their flashy Net Zero plans on trust, but no sensible person will do so. The risks of getting this wrong are too great. BEIS appears to be hiding something. Why?”

John Constable: Who are they fooling? The Energy White Paper 2020 (pdf)