- U.K.’s electricity system could become carbon-negative by as soon as 2033, according to a future scenarios report from National Grid ESO.
- Country wants to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 in order to fight climate change.
- National Grid ESO’s projections say the negative emissions target could be attained in the next decade with additional renewable generation, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage technology.
The U.K.’s electricity system could become carbon emissions negative by as soon as 2033, according to a future scenarios report from National Grid’s Electricity System Operator.
The company tasked with balancing the U.K.’s energy supply projects the negative emissions target may be attained in the next decade with the addition of renewable generation, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage technology. The U.K. has set a target to reduce carbon emissions to net zero for the entire country by 2050 in order to fight climate change.
Alex Haffner, a strategic insight manager for National Grid ESO, works closely with the analysts that research the energy system. His team created the future scenarios report that outlines four visions for the future of energy over the next three decades.
“What we’re trying to do is to decarbonize the sectors that can as much as possible,“ Haffner told Karma. “And so a lot of the generation mix is going to be zero carbon itself. There’s going to be a lot of nuclear and a lot of wind, especially offshore wind.”
The U.K. could build out as much as 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by the year 2030, says Haffner.
Bio energy combined with carbon capture and storage is key to potentially slashing greenhouse gases, which have been linked to rising global temperatures and more extreme weather patterns such as floods or droughts worldwide. The report says the U.K. could burn biomaterials derived from plants or biomass to generate bioenergy. The process would release some carbon that could then be captured and stored.
The U.K. wants to bring down emissions in the electricity system because experts anticipate that other sectors, such as aviation or heavy industry, may not be able to reduce their emissions fast enough and so the power sector has to make up for the other commercial activities, says Haffner.
In order to potentially reach its zero-emissions target, the report says the U.K. would need to convert households to use over 8 million hybrid heat pumps and consumers would have to get behind the wheels of about 30 million electric vehicles by 2040 — which would help shift electricity demand and balance the system.
Overall, all the scenarios require more intervention from the U.K.’s government if the country wishes to reach its zero carbon emissions target by 2050 or earlier. The authorities need to step in with policy tools to transform transportation, heating and energy efficiency, says Haffner.
“Some sort of strategic direction is probably required,” Haffner told Karma. “There also needs to be a lot of coordination because of the way that the U.K. operates. There’s a role for government policy setting. There’s a role for the energy regulator and then there’s a role for industry.”