Boris Johnson’s promise to make Britain’s electricity system “zero carbon” by 2035 will be “extremely difficult” to achieve in just 14 years, and is likely to require an ongoing role for natural gas, as expected.
The warning came as environmental groups welcomed the prime minister’s commitment, which was announced in a speech by Business Minister Kwasi Kwarting at a Conservative Party conference. However, energy specialists said reducing Britain’s reliance on natural gas for its electricity sector would be difficult and costly. The country’s dependence on fossil fuels, the UK’s largest source of electricity generation (accounting for nearly 40% of production), has been highlighted in recent months, when wholesale gas prices reached record levels. Quarting said the crisis showed the need to “step up efforts” to end the country’s exposure to global gas prices.
“The only way to enhance the UK’s energy security is with the zero-carbon energy generated in this country,” he said. But he admitted that reaching the 2035 goal, which reflects a similar promise made by US President Joe Biden, will still include some gas-fired power plants, although they will be equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to reduce their emissions. .
The 2035 target is a milestone on the British government’s path to achieving net zero emissions for the entire economy by 2050. The difficulties in achieving a carbon-neutral energy system determine “what you do when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops blowing,” said Richard Howard, director of research at Aurora Energy Research. It doesn’t shine,” which means that renewable energy depends on the weather.
Ministers hope that carbon capture and storage technology, which captures carbon dioxide from fossil fuel stations and permanently stores it underground, will be in widespread use by 2035 to help meet demand when renewables fail to generate.
“Technological change is coming,” said a conservative council aide. “Just remember the iPhone wasn’t around 14 years ago.” Some energy companies are also planning to build plants that can run on low-carbon hydrogen. But Howard cautioned that CCS and other low-carbon technologies that could replace gas, such as nuclear power, require a long “lead.” Although it has been examined for carbon dioxide capture and storage for nearly two decades, the UK has yet to implement it on a large scale.
All nuclear plants operating in the UK will be decommissioned by 2035, with only one replacement plant, the 3.2 GW Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset, still under construction. “Even if the government pressed the button for the next wave of nuclear projects, I’m not sure how many projects could be operational by 2035,” he added.
Other energy specialists expressed their displeasure that Kwarteng did not mention the urgent need to reduce electricity demand through measures such as better insulation. “The UK must be massively committed to home insulation and reducing public use, while providing sufficient funds, to avoid further public spending on electricity generation and distribution infrastructure,” said Marie Claire Presboa, professor of energy at the University of Sussex Business School.
The 2035 goal will also require a significant increase in offshore wind capacity. Johnson set a target last year to quadruple the UK’s current offshore wind capacity to 40 gigawatts by the end of this decade, but said in late September this could need to go further, to 60 gigawatts.
Dan McGrill, chief executive of trade firm RenewableUK, welcomed the 2035 target, but warned that the government would have to move forward with other onshore and offshore wind projects “without delay”. Wind power developers often complain of being slowed down by insufficient planning processes and investments in grid infrastructure.
Figures from the UK Department of Business show a modest 1.4% increase in renewable generation capacity between 2020 and 2021. Johnson faces concerns from a small group of Tory MPs that the net zero target will increase household costs.
British households are already facing a collective bill of more than 820 million pounds to save customers from energy providers that have collapsed in recent weeks, according to an investigation, with warnings that the total cost could run into “thousands”. Millions of pounds” with more companies going bankrupt as expected during the winter.
Research published by consultancy Investec indicated that the cost of rescuing 1.5 million customers whose suppliers have collapsed as the sector struggles with record wholesale energy prices could mean that all households are paying for electricity and gas in the region EGP 30 each.
Energy companies that have agreed to relocate customers from failed suppliers can offset their costs, including additional expenditures for purchasing power in those homes’ wholesale markets, with an industrial tax that ends up billing everyone, the consumers.