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National Grid: UK may have net-negative carbon emissions by 2033

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

It seems as if the frequency of new reports on the UK’s progress towards meeting its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 has steadily increased. July 27th saw the publication of Future Energy Scenarios report, the National Grid’s update on progress towards 2050 and one of the more significant of such documents.

The July 2020 version outlines four different credible pathways for the future of energy over the next 30 years. It is, in the main, an optimistic report containing four key messages:

  1. Reaching net-zero carbon emissions is achievable but only through immediate action across all key technologies and full engagement throughout society. The headline part of this message is that the National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) and the electric power sector would reach a stage of net-negative emissions as soon as 2033.

  2. Using technologies to produce hydrogen and a considerable increase in the installation of Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) technologies will be an important part of the pathway to 2050. At the moment, industries with the facility to use hydrogen to the extent required and CCUS capacity are a long way from where the report wants them to be and emphasis is placed on the role of government to collaborate and to drive investment into the sector.

  3. Electricity from wind and solar power must be increased year-on-year all the way up to 2050. The hope and expectation that usage of electric vehicles (EV) will also undergo a demonstrative hike creates the necessity of vehicle-to-grid networks being scaled up to the extent that 80% of households will have the facility to charge their EVs.

  4. The nature of domestic demand for electricity will also have to change but this can be achieved through more efficient heating systems and flexible usage of power for household activities.

The over-arching positivity of the report is tempered by repeated references to the need for all strata of society to contribute. Emphasis is placed on the requirement for legislators to facilitate the UK reaching net-zero emissions. Since those same legislators are legally bound to seeing this happen, there should be a unity of purpose.


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