Meeting 2050 carbon target needs energy ‘portfolio approach’

Achieving the UK's carbon reduction targets will require heavy investment in and continued development of the portfolio of low-carbon technologies, says David Kennedy.

Speaking at the Energy Market Reform Summit in London today, Kennedy, chief executive for the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change, was resolute that the portfolio approach was the sensible option to ensure that the UK meets its target of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

“First of all you wouldn’t want to rely, for example, on nuclear power for decarbonisation. It has an important role we think but relying on it, given the limit on site availability, means we can’t decarbonise the private sector with nuclear alone,” said Kennedy.

Another technology highlighted throughout the EMR summit as one of the potential solutions to meeting decarbonisation targets was Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). However, Kennedy again emphasized the risks of relying on uptake of this new technology.

“Could you decarbonise on just CCS? Again there are limits to what you can do because of limits on storage capacity for carbon,” he said.

“So you don’t want to rely on CCS or nuclear or even both of these, we need to look at renewables as well and, again, when you only look at renewables there are limits on how much renewables you can put on the system,” added Kennedy.

Kennedy stressed that from a technical point of view the UK needs to look at the portfolio of technologies available , which becomes “even more important when you look at the economics”.

“We cannot bank on CCS as a low cost technology and we cannot, at the moment, bank on offshore wind being a low cost technology. And given the uncertainty around the economics of all these technologies we can’t bank on nuclear being a low cost technology either.

“Given those uncertainties we should be investing in a portfolio, finding out more about the costs and driving those costs down if we can, and then making our investment decisions on the future and having various options to address our challenges at that time,” added Kennedy.

Kennedy’s comments echoed some of the remarks made earlier in the day by Minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, John Hayes, who focused on the Energy Bill’s intention to provide certainty for investors and encouraging investment in a “diversified energy mix”.

“The essence of this bill is to confirm that the UK is committed to the investment necessary to provide energy security and resilience, and to do so with low carbon affordable energy,” said Hayes.

“The result of this must stimulate investment by providing clarity and certainty. And that must be in investment of a kind that’s consistent with our international commitment to carbon reduction and to do so affordably. I think it’s those three driving factors that are behind our policy intent,” he added.

“It’s important to understand that the investment must diversify our energy mix of fossil fuel, CCS, gas, nuclear and renewables, which can all play their part and provide the extra level of security for our electricity supply” said Hayes.

Comments from Hayes, also matched Kennedy’s later statements that suggested uncertainty was inevitable with ambiguity around technology costs.

The minister said the Energy Bill must include sufficient flexibility to deal with a future which “we cannot predict with absolute certainty”.

“It is essential that the model we build is responsive to change as possible and the diversity is critical to that responsiveness. This system must be sustainable because its adaptable,” he added.

However, following the ministers speech, chair of the Committee on Climate Change, Tim Yeo hit out at the Government’s Energy Bill, labelling it “fundamentally flawed” by the weakness of its demand side measures.

Yeo also likened the time it took for the Government to finalise the draft Energy Bill to “the pregnancy of an elephant but with rather more disappointing conclusions”.

Leigh Stringer

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