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Electric cars and decarbonised heating key factors to achieving UK climate targets

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Broad uptake of electric vehicles (EV) will play a major role in the Government’s plan to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, according to a new report.

The Future Energy Scenarios study from National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) said that an estimated 35m electric vehicles in 2050 would provide flexibility in the energy system and enable greater integration of renewables.

Smart charging cars could store a fifth of Britain’s solar generation for when it’s needed, the report said, and over 2.8 trillion data points will be collected in 2050 to understand where EVs are charging.

Homes will also need to use one-third less energy on heating than they currently do, with over 23m homes estimated as needing installation of a new low-carbon heating solution by 2050.

It suggests there are multiple ways to go about this including electrification, decarbonised gas and hybrid systems.

The optimal solutions will ultimately vary by region and the combinations and interaction of these technologies “must be considered to provide a flexible, operable and sustainable whole energy system”.

Furthermore, 37m tonnes of CO2 will need to be removed from the atmosphere in order to offset residual emissions. This can be achieved through extensive use of carbon capture and storage as well as biomass power generation.

In April this year, MPs said that without carbon capture, the UK’s heavy industries could be forced to close for climate targets to be met.

The report comes after the Government’s climate advisers warned action was falling far behind what was needed to meet the goal.

In a net-zero world, there would also be an increased use of public transport and car-sharing would grow as a result of more autonomous vehicles.

Kayte O’Neill, head of strategy and regulation at National Grid ESO, said: “We balance supply and demand of GB energy day in day out, so see first-hand how the system is changing.

“Although these are not firm predictions, we’ve talked to over 600 industry experts to build this insight and it’s clear whilst net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is achievable, there are significant changes ahead.

“Electric vehicles continue to be a catalyst for decarbonising the system, making it more flexible as well as bringing down costs for consumers, too - and whilst gas will still have an important role to play, a clear plan for the decarbonisation of heat is needed.”

Yesterday, a separate report found that just one in eight companies are managing to keep their carbon emissions below the level set forth in the Paris Agreement. 

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