If the UK is to have any chance of reaching Net Zero by 2050, it is essential that the UK decarbonise its energy supply along the way. That is why Eco2 keenly welcomes the announcement from the Prime Minister earlier this week, committing to eliminating fossil fuels from the UK’s energy supply by 2035.
Mr Johnson said that the country can significantly reduce its reliance on fossil fuels through the development of renewable and nuclear energy. If achieved, total generation from clean energy sources will represent a key step towards meeting the UK’s target of a 78% cut in CO2 emissions by 2035, and eventually to the ultimate Net Zero target.
However, there is a long way to go to meet these targets. Making the UK’s energy supply entirely free of fossil fuels is not just a case of building more wind, solar, tidal and nuclear power plants. With so much interruptible energy capacity on the grid, we will also need investment in crucial infrastructure for storage and balancing. That is why the UK today is still falling back on fossil fuels when renewable energy generation is interrupted, as it did earlier this year when generation from fossil fuels shot up by 36% due to unfavourable weather. More nuclear power and rapidly improving battery storage technologies will help with this, but nuclear plants take longer to develop and build than we have time, and storage technologies are not yet being developed at the requisite scale.
To meet the target, the renewable energy industry will also need support from the Government to access funding and skilled workers, and to expand grid capacity as the Welsh Affairs Committee reported earlier this year. The grid capacity issues, in particular, are the single biggest constraint on renewable energy development in some parts of the country, and the UK Government and Ofgem must urgently plan investment in the grid to enable further renewables generation.
The Prime Minister’s commitment is immensely important, but it must be backed up with greater detail, and quickly. There have already been considerable delays on the Environment Bill, and on strategies for Net Zero, hydrogen, and heating; Ministers will need to pick up pace if the key policy hurdles are going to be cleared in time to meet this critical 2035 target.
Whatever the case, decarbonising our energy sector presents huge opportunities for the renewable energy sector, from developers to investors and everyone in between. With Eco2’s experience as a developer of successful wind, solar and biomass projects, as an asset manager, and in the growing market of ESG consulting, we are always looking for new opportunities and partnerships. If you have a project or asset that we could help with, get in touch.