Low-carbon energy is ‘most cost-effective’ way to meet UK demand in 2020s
Low-carbon energy options like wind, solar and CCS will be the cheapest way to meet the UK's need for more generation in the 2020s, according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
The independent parliamentary committee’s latest report analysed a range of options for future UK power generation, seeking to balance issues of affordability, security of supply and decarbonisation.
The CCC assumed that, given an expected carbon price on fossil-fuels, “several low-carbon sources of power are likely to be cost competitive with new gas-fired generation”.
It said that onshore wind and solar were already there, while CCS and offshore wind would get there with continued support into the 2020s.
According to the CCC, the latter two technologies “both represent good value investments for a society committed to climate targets”.
Investments in major power generating projects are already largely committed up to 2020, but after that, new investment in power generation will be needed to replace retiring coal and nuclear power and to meet future increases in energy demand.
CCC chair Lord Deben said: “The 2020s are crucial in setting the direction for UK power generation, and to ensure the UK can meet its 2050 climate change commitments cost-effectively.
“The key tools are already in place to deliver the investment in low-carbon generation that is required. The Government must now urgently clarify the direction of future policy to ensure the power sector can decarbonise at lowest cost to businesses and households.”
Investor confidence in the UK renewables market is at an all-time low, after a series of subsidy cuts, and a dearth of new policies until the Conservative Government completes its spending review in November.
The CCC warns that the more variable power supply produced by renewables will also require grid upgrades in the form of demand side management, interconnection to other markets and more electricity storage.
Friends of the Earth senior energy campaigner Simon Bullock welcomed the CCC report, adding:”The Government’s own advisers say it will be cheaper to use low-carbon electricity rather than gas to power our economy in the 2020s.
“Ministers should be championing the UK renewable sector, instead of strangling the life out of solar and on-shore wind, threatening tens of thousands of jobs and pushing up bills in the future.
“Energy bill payers and our climate will pay a hefty price for the Government’s costly and short sighted obsession with gas, oil and fracking.”
Level playing field
A spokesperson from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, said: “This report confirms what other recent analyses have also found, namely that the cheapest forms of renewable energy are increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels for electricity generation.
“But if the Government wants to have a genuinely level playing field, it’s imperative that fossil fuel generators pay the full costs to society of their emissions, which can be accomplished simply by raising the carbon floor price. As the Committee makes clear, this will also keep customers’ bills down, so it’s a win-win strategy for the Treasury.”
A separate report from the CCC earlier this month recommended the UK cut its emissions by 54% by 2030 from a 1990 baseline to keep in line with its 2050 targets.