Time Is Running Out For UK To Invest In Future Decarbonized Energy System

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A new report has claimed “time is rapidly running out” for the UK to ensure a reliable, affordable, and decarbonized energy system is in place to meet future emissions targets.

RAE-1Prepared by the UK Prime Minister’s own Council for Science and Technology, the new report, A critical time for UK energy policy (PDF)outlines the actions the Council believes are necessary and required to “create a secure and affordable low carbon energy system for 2030 and beyond.” Specifically, the study details the future of the UK energy system in the short- to medium-term across a range of “possible trajectories”, and concluded that the following actions are considered “a matter of urgency”:

  • enable local or regional whole-system, large scale pilot projects to establish real-world examples of how the future system will work. These must move beyond current single technology demonstrators and include all aspects of the energy systems along with consumer behavior and financial mechanisms
  • drive forward new capacity in the three main low carbon electricity generating technologies: nuclear, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and offshore wind
  • develop policies to accelerate demand reduction, especially in domestic heating, and introduce smarter demand management
  • clarify and stabilize market mechanisms and incentives in order to give industry the confidence to invest

“Updating the UK energy system to meet the ‘trilemma’ of decarbonisation, security, and affordability is a massive undertaking,” explained Dr David Clarke, FREng, of the Royal Academy of Engineering, who authored the report for the Council. “Meeting national targets affordably requires substantial decarbonisation of the electricity system by 2030 through a mix of nuclear power, CCS [carbon capture and storage], and renewables, with gas generation for balancing. Beyond 2030 we must then largely decarbonise heat and transport, potentially through electrification, but also using other options such as hydrogen and biofuels. We also need to adapt our transmission and distribution networks to become ‘smarter’.”

Of primary concern to the authors of the report is “that there remain serious risks in the delivery of the optimal energy system for the UK,” and despite challenges such as investment and increasing costs, the UK’s energy system “is on course to meet the targets set by UK and EU, but only just.” In fact, the authors claim that, so far, it’s the easiest actions that have been taken and brought the UK’s energy system to where it is, but that much harder tasks are ahead — that “progress in the electricity sector will only get more difficult and there is a serious risk of non-delivery.”

“Time is of the essence, with decisions taken now affecting what the system will look like in 2030 and beyond.”

“Failure to plan the development of the whole energy system carefully will result, at best, in huge increases in the cost of delivery or, at worst, a failure to deliver,” continued Dr Clarke. “Substantial investment is needed and current investment capacity is fragile. For example, in the last month projects like Carlton’s new Trafford CCGT plant have announced further financing delays and the hoped-for investment by Drax in the White Rose CCS demonstrator has been withdrawn. The UK has also dropped four places to 11th in EY’s renewable energy country attractiveness index.”

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

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17 thoughts on “Time Is Running Out For UK To Invest In Future Decarbonized Energy System

  • “drive forward new capacity in the three main low carbon electricity generating technologies: nuclear, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and offshore wind”

    WTF, why does UK only want most expensive options?
    1) Nuclear – OMG they haven’t looked at the cost of the current mess in UK.
    2) CSS – Where is there still a project moving forward, all have been cancel as way to costly.
    3) Off shore wind, yes these will come down.
    Why would they not be calling to make the current cheaper paths, onshore wind and local PV, even cheaper and smoother. Instead of putting up road blocks.

    • Good questions. Here’s the answer in the article:

      “UK Prime Minister’s own Council for Science and Technology”

      The Conservative Party has to pay off it’s backers. The US is exactly the same. In the US, whatever you may think about economic or foreign policy, if you want to keep the planet habitable, you have no choice in your vote.

      • The policy is nuts, agreed. But venal? Coal mining in Britain is trivial now. The gas industry is big, and that may explains the support for unpopular fracking. But solar and onshore wind are businesses too, and get no love at all. The policy also hurts landowners, a traditional pillar of conservatism, now deprived of the prospect of juicy rents. I reckon it’s much more ideology, if the prejudices of the London chattering classes count as such. They want to keep the countryside as a weekend Disneyland, with Constable views from the rectory cottage.

      • Great cartoon. Too bad so few right-wing Americans aren’t more experienced.

        • It *is* a great cartoon, (New Yorker) and the humor is in pointing out that it doesn’t matter what people see or experience, if they have a closed mind they are impervious to actual facts. As Marx said “Who are you going to believe. Me or your lying eyes?” (Groucho).

          • I took it a bit differently. I see the young girl as sensing her father’s foolishness.

            Travel is becoming much more common. Growing up I knew no one who had been outside the US except perhaps to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Now my neighbors who live a lower middle class lifestyle have done the two week tour of Europe type stuff.

            Plus she’s growing up well removed from the Cold War that many of us older farts lived through.

          • I’ll add your insight to mine.

    • “drive forward new capacity in the three main low carbon electricity generating technologies: nuclear, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and offshore wind”

      Let the UK build a new reactor or two. Let them build a couple of coal or gas plants with CCS. By the time they bring it online the cost of offshore will almost certainly be cheaper(one company just reported a 30% drop in cost to connect offshore to land). Economics will win in the end.

      Some countries are run by knuckleheads who have to learn things the hard way. Sometimes the knuckleheads never learn and have to be replaced. The UK will waste some money thanks to the people they put in charge of their government.

      • Could I request that in future CT posts, when discussing the UK electorate in relation to voting for the Conservatives, that after the word ‘they’ the phrase ‘with the exception of Karl’ is placed in parenthesis.

        Thank you for your attention in this matter 🙂

        • Oh, Karl, we all know you’re smarter than most of the UK.

          Off topic: is that Scotch egg in your avatar? How the heck does one eat thing like that?

          • You sure that’s not tadman haw kai?

          • No, I’m not sure. I’ve never heard of “tadman haw kai”, and neither has Google.

          • It’s Thai. Kai is egg. Tadman is a fish based mixture that is sometimes fried as a paddy. In this case it’s wrapped around a boiled egg.

          • “smarter than the average bear boo-boo”

            Gold star for Scotch egg spotting! You eat it as God intended, on it’s own. And incidentally it contains all the important food groups – brown, yellow and white.

          • Um, I meant knife and fork, or pick up and bite?

          • Either way will do, though depends on the size. Bit of black pepper on top and yumm!

          • I’ll remember that if I ever encounter Scotch egg. Thanks.

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