Government decisions from now to 2025 will prove decisive in the battle for a feasible low carbon economy and greater energy efficiency, a specialist study advises.
The Energy Technologies Institute, a public-private organisation, emphasises in a new report that the UK has only two Parliaments to prepare for transition that will ensure 2050 carbon reduction targets are met.
The good news is that the UK can successfully make the leap forward by harnessing known, but currently underdeveloped, technologies and solutions.
The Insights Report authors, Jo Coleman, the ETI’s Director of Strategy Development and Chief Engineer Andrew Haslett, argue that bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) should be central to any low carbon economy plan – and their omission could double the costs of transition, making it difficult to meet 2050 targets.
It is clear from the report that the UK will need to adopt and develop a full range of technological solutions, first focusing on the three elements – replacement of nuclear power stations, energy efficiency and energy generation from waste.
For SaveMoneyCutCarbon, all three are important but none more so than cutting energy consumption and we have argued consistently that this is the most effective and quickest way to achieve sustainable and substantial reductions.
We support the government’s drives to insulate homes and other measures supported through the Green Deal the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) but we know that much more can be achieved through national financial support for measures that provide rapid payback and exceptional good energy reductions – like LED lighting, intelligent heating and lighting controls and water-saving solutions.
The ETI report provides context for energy efficiency. It says that roughly 90% of current homes will still be around in 2050, and with most poorly insulated and highly inefficient in terms of energy use.
“The government is seeking to improve this poor performance by offering households free surveys and financial support for energy-saving improvements. Nevertheless, the deep cuts in emissions that will be needed if the UK is to meet its 2050 targets will be both expensive and disruptive.”
It also emphasises the limited scope for Solar power to play a major role because in comparison with much of western Europe, the UK has a relatively low solar gain, which diminishes the further north you go and is out of sync with demand for residential energy, which peaks during the dark hours before dawn and early evening in the winter.
And to meet the heating challenge, with huge variation in demand, the UK must improve heating efficiency, heat storage and demand response, while altering usage patterns supported by advanced heating controls, particularly as the country moves away from gas and more towards electricity as a heat source.
At the same time, additional pressures on energy production are highly visible. Out of a total power capacity of approximately 90GW in 2010, 16GW will be decommissioned by the end of this year.
Jo Coleman says:
“We see enormous potential and value in developing CCS and bioenergy and the success or failure of deploying these two technologies will have a huge impact on the cost of achieving the UK’s legally binding climate change targets.
“Significant policy intervention will be needed to support these technologies along with nuclear, offshore wind and heat networks, which is why decisions taken over the next decade are so important.”
The report indicates that the value of CCS and bioenergy to our energy system is roughly £200bn each and advises that environmental concerns over biomass combustion can be addressed if the technology is combined with carbon storage solutions.
It does highlight that CCS development is dogged currently by false starts and frustrations. Two projects remain in the running for the government’s £1 billion commercialisation competition but more storage sites and potential clusters are needed.
The report indicates that six CCS shoreline hubs feeding fewer than 20 storage facilities would cost £5 billion over the next 35 years, so new market structures are needed urgently to attract investment.
Clearly, the political will to meet carbon reduction targets is strong with three main party leaders issuing a joint all underlining a commitment to the low carbon economy last Friday. Any future government should take to heart the ETI’s recommendations.