Britain ‘could be carbon neutral in 20 years’

Environmental pioneers at the Centre for Alternative Technology in rural Wales have produced a report claiming that the UK could go carbon neutral by 2027 - and outlining how to get there.

Effectively scrapping the petrol engine, improving building standards, changing the way we produce and consume food and investing heavily in renewable energy will all be necessary if we are to achieve this bold target.

According to the report, zerocarbonbritain, such a transition is a viable prospect using only existing technology but would require political determination and changes in the way we, as a society, view energy.

Paul Allen, CAT development director and co-author said, “zerocarbonbritain is a radical yet pragmatic vision of Britain’s energy future, based on a reading of the most recent science and driven by bold new policies.

“Using only existing and proven technologies, the report maps a potential scenario that could arise from these policies and integrates solutions to the intimately connected issues of climate change, energy security and global equity.

“zerocarbonbritain is scientifically necessary, socially possible and technically achievable – we must now make it politically thinkable.”

The report focusing on reducing energy demand by 50% by 2027 – powering down – while radically increasingly non-polluting energy sources – powering up.

Power for transport needs to switch almost entirely to electricity, it says, with less reliance on private vehicles and a dramatically improved public service.

According to CAT’s vision, our eating habits would also need to be addressed, with Britons being asked to eat less carbon-intensive meat and dairy produce and buy locally produced organic goods to reduce the energy used in transportation and the manufacture of chemicals.

Government policy will require new buildings to be effectively carbon neutral well before 2027, but existing buildings will need refurbishment to improve their energy efficiency and demand must be met in large part by combined heat and power (CHP) plants, heat pumps and micro-renewables.

The remaining energy supply must be met by a mix of renewables including solar and wind backed up by more predictable biomass-fuelled CHP plants and tidal generation.

It also recommends investment in large-scale storage technologies such as vanadium flow batteries to address the problems associated with variable energy supply associated with some renewables.

Tim Hennessy, CEO of VRB Power said: “This report recognises the enormous potential that renewable energy sources such as wind have to play in our energy mix,” said Tim Hennessy, CEO of VRB Power, a company which produces such batteries.

“However, it also highlights the major stability problems associated with integrating large-scale intermittent renewables into the national grid, and the role that energy storage technologies can play.”

Such technologies can smooth the flow of renewable energy, turning it into a stable, firm, dispatchable source of power, he said, adding: “We’re pleased that CAT has recognised the benefits of this technology and its contribution to a low-carbon economy.”

The introduction of the report claims: “Zerocarbonbritain is both scientifically necessary and technically possible.

“It may also deliver a higher quality of life, along with a sense of collective purpose that has not been felt in Britain for many decades.

“What is needed now is to make a zero-carbon Britain politically thinkable. The authors are convinced that this can be achieved, but it will require strong leadership and a robust cross-party consensus.”

Sam Bond

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