UK to reward green consumers, ban dirty vehicles

New UK government plans will see the sales of new petrol and diesel cars banned from 2040 onwards. [Shutterstock]

British consumers could enjoy savings worth billions of pounds as a result of major changes to electricity generation, usage and storage, under new plans by the UK government. Westminster also intends to ban sales of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040.

Westminster and energy regulator Ofgem revealed that consumers could save between €19bn and €45bn by 2050, thanks to new rules that will make it easier for people to generate their own electricity, store it and sell it back to the grid.

The new rules are set to come into force over the next 12 months. Currently, people that use solar panels are charged tariffs when they import electricity or sell it back to the grid.

Due to technological improvements and progress in renewable energy generation, more and more people across the UK are producing and storing their own electricity. The government’s action goes some way towards acknowledging the changing situation.

The BBC cited the role of the Internet of Things in the new rules, under which consumers could enjoy reduced rates if they allow appliances to be turned on by the internet in order to take advantage of cheap solar power on sunny days.

Companies that allow their air-conditioning systems to be turned down during peaks of energy demand will also see the benefit.

Although there are concerns that further connectivity could increase the risk of crippling hacker attacks, Ofgem insisted that measures will be put in place to tackle the threat of interference.

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The government will also ban new diesel and petrol cars and vans from UK roads from 2040 onwards.

The new air quality scheme, which includes a number of other initiatives including retrofitting the most polluting vehicles, removing traffic calming measures and changing road layouts, stops short of an outright ban on diesel cars, which was an objective of many motoring groups.

Environment Minister Michael Gove told British radio on Wednesday morning (26 July) that the Conservative Party’s election manifesto included a pledge to ensure there are no petrol or diesel cars on the roads by 2050.

A government spokesman also said poor air quality is “the biggest environmental risk” to public health in the UK.

That means reversing a trend that saw the number of diesel cars increase from 3.2 million in 2000 to over 10 million today, thanks in part to a Labour government scheme that cut fuel duty. The measure was intended to cut CO2 emissions but has led to massive increases in nitrogen dioxide output.

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The government’s plans have provoked worries that phasing out internal combustion will lead to a massive increase in electricity demand in the UK. Paul Massara, CEO of North Star Solar and former CEO of RWE npower called claims that demand could spike 50% and cost over €200bn “wild”.

Massara added that the figure is more likely to be around the 10% mark, as the UK moves towards smart grid technologies. He also insisted that the €200bn+ figure is based on using the most expensive technologies and that there are far cheaper alternatives.

Dr Jonathan Marshall, energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “The shift to electric vehicles will of course put extra demands on the grid but developments in smart charging and vehicle-to-grid technologies, alongside improvements in batteries, make the worst-case scenario an unrealistic prediction.”