If current trends continue, advances in decarbonisation of the power sector will be unable to make up for slow progress on heat and transport.

National Grid made the prediction in the latest version of its annual ‘Future Energy Scenarios’ report, which outlined four different potential scenarios for the future of the UK’s energy system: ‘Gone Green’, ‘Consumer Power’, ‘Slow Progression’ and ‘No Progression’.

Britain has a legally-binding target under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive to produce 15% of all final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. In none of the four scenarios is the country predicted to achieve the target.  

The earliest it is predicted to be met is in 2022 under the ‘Gone Green’ scenario. It wouldn’t be met until 2029 under the ‘No Progression’ scenario.

Meeting the overall target will require 34% of power to be generated from renewable sources. They will need produce 10% of all energy used in both heat and transport.

National Grid said the power sector is on course to make the required contribution but said, as things stand, heat and transport are not.

Renewable heat will need to grow from 35TWh to 60TWh between now and 2020 – an annual increase of 12.5TWh. As there was an average annual increase of just 2.5TWh over the last four years “the pace of change would need to increase significantly”.

There is currently around 14.5TWh of renewable transport and another 24 TWh would be needed to reach the target. The UK has added an average of just 1TWh each year over the last four years but would need another 6 TWh every year for the next four.

The conclusions of the study echo those of a recent report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) which said Britain cannot rely on the power sector to meet its emissions targets

Britain is also on track to miss its 2050 target under the Climate Change Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% on 1990 levels in three out of the four scenarios.

It is only met in the ‘Gone Green’ scenario. This would see the UK makes use of CCS-enabled generation, as well as renewables and nuclear, to decarbonise the power sector by 2045. These three “key” technologies would be used to electrify parts of the heat and transport sectors as well – reducing emissions by 65% and 70% respectively.

Last week, the Government confirmed its fifth carbon budget for 2028 to 2032, accepting the recommendation of the CCC to cut emissions by an average of 57 per cent on 1990 levels over the period.

Tom Grimwood

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title Utility Week

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