Britain stands little chance, under the government’s current pace, of meeting its 2035 goal of stripping all carbon out of the nation’s electricity, say independent experts advising it on the climate emergency.
Hydrogen-fuelled power stations, new capture and storage storage technologies stripping carbon from continuing gas generation, and storage solutions going beyond mere batteries, are among 25 high priority new recommendations made by the Climate Change Committee, in their new report out today.
The study’s 25 detailed recommendations provide detailed, “join-the-dots” measures as yet missing from ministers’ action, towards developing a climate-resilient power system.
Using historical weather data, the CCC’s modelling illustrates the requirements of 2035’s power clean system. Stress-tested, it includes an extreme scenario of a prolonged period of low wind.
Carbon emissions from electricity generation have fallen 69% since 2010, the CCC notes. Completing that progress by 2035 will speed full decarbonisation of sectors like transport, industry and heat, through wider adoption of key technologies such as EVs and heat pumps.
Achievement of the UK’s emissions targets rests on this key deadline of 2035, say the report’s authors.
Harnessing renewables’ variability imposes costs on power distribution, but costs which are manageable in the context of their cheapness, and low-carbon flexibility, the study’s experts judge.
“The government is asleep at the wheel”, said CCC chair Lord Deben, launching its measures.
“Recent commitments for new nuclear and renewables are welcome, but these alone are insufficient. A rapid overhaul of the planning system and regulations is needed. It is not clear where the responsibility lies for the design and operations of our modern energy system rests among key organisations.
“Countries around the world are now racing for this goal” the CCC chair added. “The UK is further ahead than most, but we risk losing our early lead at the worst possible time.”
Steps urged by the committee include a call on National Grid-ESO to publish this year its second transitional Centralised Strategic Network Plan, identifying the strategic investments required for a carbon-purged resilient power system in 2035.
The CCC identifies the Whitehall departments and other agencies needed to drive through each of its 25 steps. Most fall to the D-ESNZ energy ministry.
But to environment ministry DEFRA, headed by under-fire secretary Therese Coffey, falls the task of mapping out under its third National Adaptation Programme the government’s vision of what a well-adapted and climate resilient energy system will look like. Coffey’s ministry must respond this year, the CCC urges.
Jobs in huge numbers will result from Britain’s transition to carbon-free power, the report notes. Currently more than 31,000 people are employed in offshore wind alone, a figure set to rise to 97,000 by 2030, driven by £155 billion in private investment.
Beyond full delivery of its existing commitment to renewables and nuclear, the government must give equal focus to low-carbon flexible solutions, the report urges.
Nigel Pocklington, CEO of Good Energy, today endorsed the CCC’s assessment.
“Businesses, investors and consumers are raring to go on Net Zero”, said Pocklington.
“The only obstacle to a decarbonised power system is a disinterested government which has consistently failed to recognise the urgency of the climate crisis and dragged its feet on implementing the right policy to unleash a renewable revolution in Britain.
“This is why we remain too reliant on polluting and expensive fossil fuels whose volatile prices have caused so many serious problems for households and businesses across the country.
“The Government needs to unlock investment in cheaper and greener sources of energy, unblock the barriers to onshore wind and help pave the way for flexible storage and shifting of demand – as well as take the wider issue of energy efficiency much more seriously – if we’re to have any realistic prospect of achieving net zero.”