Green power set to re-energize the UK and cut emissions


A cleaner, greener UK is at the heart of the government’s drive to ensure it meets its pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 80% on 1990 levels by 2030[1].  With a focus on green growth, it hopes to boost both industry and energy production, and clear the way for a sustainable future.

In the Clean Growth Strategy[2], presented by the UK government in October 2017, a raft of initiatives has been outlined, that will essentially fuel the shift to a low-carbon economy. With around £2.5bn earmarked to support low carbon innovation from 2015 to 2021, it’s the largest increase in public spending for the last three decades.

Preveiling pragmatism

“The way we’re going to meet our 2030 targets is with clean energy, but we also need to decarbonise transport and to be hard on the business energy efficiency,” said Claire Perry, minister for climate change[3]. “By focusing on clean growth, we can cut the cost of energy, drive economic prosperity, create high value jobs and improve our quality of life,” she added.

To do this, the UK will invest in a number of energies, including nuclear power, with the aim of having 16 GWe of new nuclear capacity operating by 2030.[4] This marks a significant change in the UK’s approach to nuclear. To date, there has been a legacy of under-investment but with Hinkley Point C planning to start generating in the mid-2020s, the situation is already changing.

There are plans for a new fleet of nuclear power stations, including at Wylfa and Moorside. The country is also exploring new opportunities like small modular reactors, which hold the promise of low cost, low carbon energy. This was reinforced in July 2017 with the National Grid’s update of Future Energy Scenarios. In the light of projected peak demand of 85 GWe by 2050, its main scenario called for 14.5 GWe of new nuclear plant online by 2035, and nuclear supplying 31% of demand in 2050. [5]

With approximately £246m earmarked for the development of electric car batteries[6] over the next four years, different scenarios concerning electric vehicles increase peak demand by 6 GWe, 11 GWe or 18 GWe by 2050 depending on when the majority are charged, and assuming 7 kW charging (30 amps).[7]

According to Transport for London 'green' cars in the city would need between seven and eight gigawatt-hours of electricity per year, roughly the equivalent to the amount of electricity produced by two nuclear power stations. If green cars take off throughout the whole of the UK then Britain could need up to 20 more nuclear power stations to cope with the increased demand in power.

The dawn of a new energy era

Other measures on the table include carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to help clean up industry. This nascent technology will help strip harmful carbon dioxide from factory emissions, which can then be piped into permanent storage under the seabed.

Offshore wind power, is also proving to be a UK success story having created thousands of highly skilled jobs and triggering a burgeoning local supply chain across the country. Its plummeting costs mean it’s also helping to keep energy bills lower while cutting carbon emissions.  

A further £841m of public funds[8] will also be ploughed into innovation in low carbon transport technology and fuels.

This shift to a low carbon economy has the UK on the cusp of a new era - one that positively impacts both environment and energy - reducing carbon emissions and air pollution and helping the UK to meet key climate change targets and achieve a cleaner, greener future.