‘Urgent changes’ needed to decarbonise the power system, report says
The UK government lacks a comprehensive strategy to decarbonise power systems by 2035, according to a report by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).
The CCC has criticised Britain's lack of a strategy to meet its targets of decarbonising electricity supplies in the next 12 years.
“The government has not yet provided a coherent strategy to achieve its goal, nor provided essential details on how it will encourage the necessary investment and infrastructure to be deployed over the next 12 years," reads a report published by the committee.
The report includes 25 recommendations the government should implement in order to reach a decarbonised power system, described as “the central requirement for achieving net zero”.
It includes a series of “urgent changes”, such as removing barriers from the regulatory, planning and consenting regimes for the development of new infrastructure. In addition, the CCC advises the government to offer new incentives and business models to generate £300-430bn of investment.
The authors say these reforms could help the UK generate about 70 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, with nuclear and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (CCS) accounting for roughly 20 per cent by 2035.
The remaining supply could come from low-carbon backup generation such as hydrogen-powered turbines and some fossil fuel plants using CCS technology.
Chris Stark, the CCC’s chief executive, likened the future system to a Netflix subscription model, where energy used for transport, heat and power will all come together in one tariff.
He also stressed the importance of investing in “low-regret” hydrogen – infrastructure that will still be relevant in a decarbonised energy system.
“The UK is flat-footed in its ability to use its policy, regulatory, planning and consenting levers to get these key technologies deployed quickly," he said. “It has been a couple of years since we recommended that the government should set the 2035 goal for a decarbonised power system – a very important target.
“This is the government saying to the country, get your heat pump, get your electric car, have faith that that will be a decarbonised technology once we finish the job on decarbonising the power system.”
In response to the report, energy network operators said the government needs to move fast to secure investment and develop technologies to meet the 2035 target and that a lack of political action risks holding decarbonisation back.
Nigel Pocklington, chief executive of Good Energy, said: “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 such serious problems for households and businesses across the country."
Jess Ralston, head of energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “There is a huge investment opportunity in a cleaner, cheaper electricity system that isn’t blown about by international gas markets, but the government needs a clearer plan for investors to pile in.
“The additional costs involved in balancing a renewables grid are minimal, particularly when compared to the cost of gas power.”
A spokeperson for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said low-carbon sources such as renewables and nuclear provide half of total UK energy generation and the country is rapidly progressing developments in CCS.
"The UK is a world leader in efforts to reach net zero and we have a laser-like focus on maintaining that position," they said.
The CCC also warned that Britain’s power systems are not adequately prepared for the risks climate change could pose to vital infrastructure and this should be factored in to new project development.
“If climate resilience is neglected in this investment, there is significant risk of locking in increased climate vulnerability or additional costs later on,” the report said.
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