The UK system operator National Grid ESO has said that the UK power sector will be operating on a negative-emissions basis by 2033 at the latest if the country sticks to its plan to reach net-zero emissions across the economy by 2050.
National Grid’s report Future Energy Scenarios details some of the implications of the country’s commitment to net zero by 2050, established last year, when it became the first major economy to commit to such a target. Japan, New Zealand, and the EU bloc (minus Poland) have since followed.
The report says that the UK will need to connect at last 40 GW of new wind and solar during the 2020s, and an average of 3 GW of wind and 1.4 GW of solar every year from now until 2050, far above its current pace. Unabated natural gas use will be halved by 2038.
National Grid lays out four pathways of varying ambition to reaching net-zero, three of which result in the UK actually achieving its targeted carbon reductions. National Grid said that the coming changes will require buy-in from consumers as well as industry. The report said: “Consumer technology choices today will influence [decarbonisation] pathways and options for efficient whole system operation in the future. Visibility and interoperability standards must be embedded to maintain options for smart management and market participation.”
National Grid has a goal of being able to support a carbon-free grid by 2025, which it says it us on track to achieving.
National Grid says that the UK needs immediate action on carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) with projects built at multiple industrial clusters by 2030. CCUS combined with bioenergy power generation, as planned at the Net Zero Humberside cluster, could lead to negative emissions of 62 megatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050. The report also says that the UK will need to get at least 21 per cent of its end-user energy from green hydrogen.