Our current campaign – lock in a renewable future
Renewable energy has been a massive success story for the UK, and for the world. But this underscores the fact that electric vehicles, heating and industrial processes will have to be sourced from low carbon power sources, so a slow rollout of renewable energy delays decarbonisation of all these other sectors. The UK therefore must continue and amp up its success story on renewable energy across the 2020s, creating an effectively zero carbon electricity grid by 2030, with CO2 emissions of no more than 50g of CO2 per kWh. We propose a variety of methods to continue the pace.
First, kick-start the return of onshore wind and large scale solar, using the roll out of these technologies as a complement to the offshore wind pipeline. We are pleased that as of March 2020 the government brought these technologies back into future construction, and we will be encouraging a healthy pipeline of projects and commitment.
Second, we welcome the target for 40GW of offshore wind by 2030, and want to ensure that this target is met and all necessary work is being done to deliver this capacity on time.
Third, set up a market with government contracts for flexibility technologies that compensate for variability in these new renewables, such as battery storage, demand side response and other emerging technologies.
Fourth, ensure that the UK has frictionless trade of electricity to neighbouring countries after the Brexit transition period has ended, allowing interconnectors to import and export electricity cheaply and keeping bills low. Not only does this allow the UK to import power when needed, it also allows and it to export excess wind and solar power to our European neighbours, helping countries like France, Belgium, the Netherlands and others transition too.
The transition to clean electricity is by no means over. At 54 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2019, gas plants still make a significant proportion of the UK’s emissions. Phasing out gas plants will be more difficult than coal has been, as gas plants may be required for longer periods, as they can balance out variable renewables. Additionally, while smart charging and good management can massively reduce the power demand of electric vehicles, these and low carbon heating and electrification of industry will result in some increases in power demand, so a renewables boom over the 2020s has to compensate for today’s demand and for additional sources.
With offshore wind as the backbone of this new system, additional solar and onshore wind must be allowed to flourish to help with the scale of the transition. A strong emphasis on new flexible technologies will also allow us to get more out of our existing renewables and adapt to a more intensive electrical grid. A renewables boom is also an economic one, with the power sector saving £7 billion a year from 2030, not to mention cementing the UK’s world leader status among the technology. A renewables boom could create an additional UK based jobs, such as 36,000 jobs in the offshore wind industry with the 40GW target alone, with the additional benefit of bringing back British manufacturing to economically deprived regions.