UK Electricity Grid to turn Carbon Negative by 2033?

Wind turbines at sunset

Britain’s electricity system could become carbon negative within the next 13 years, according to the National Grid’s latest Future Energy Scenarios report.

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The electricity network operator has said that an increase in the use of renewable energy and carbon capture technology could play a big role in contributing towards the country’s net-zero carbon target of 2050.

‘Emissions Negative’ National Grid

The ambitious ‘emissions negative’ grid plan would see 30 million additional electric vehicles on roads and 8 million homes replacing their gas boilers with energy-efficient heat pumps equipped with thermal ‘heat batteries’.

Among the renewable energy projects expected are at least 3GW of new wind power production and 1.4GW of solar generation to be built every year, along with the widespread uptake of electric vehicles helping to balance the National Grid by acting as smart-charging ‘batteries’.

In addition to this, the way customers consume energy is expected to change over the coming years, with households predicted to use less than a third of the gas and electricity we do today, through a combination of more energy-efficient homes and new means of energy production, such as bioenergy fuels.

Furthermore, carbon capture technology is expected to contribute to removing greenhouse gases from North Sea gas production, resulting in clean hydrogen to run factories and power plants across Britain.

Green light bulb

National Grid ESO’s Head of Strategy, Mark Herring, said: “This year’s Future Energy Scenarios paint an exciting picture of net-zero Britain with electricity playing a crucial role in meeting meet the 2050 emissions targets.

“Across all scenarios, we see growth in renewable energy generation, including significant expansion in installed offshore wind capacity. There is widespread uptake in domestic electric vehicles, and growth and investment in hydrogen and carbon capture technologies too.

“Although these are not firm predictions, we’ve talked to over 600 industry experts to build this insight and it’s clear while net-zero is achievable, there are significant changes ahead.”

"Immediate government action required"

However, the Future Energy Scenarios report also mentioned that the UK will still not make the legally-binding net-zero target without immediate government action on key energy policies.

Herring said that while the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s future energy strategy was not factored into the report, he was hopeful that any future government stimulus packages would include clean energy and energy efficiency measures to help boost the economy.

“While COVID-19 came too late to be factored into this year’s analysis many of the areas highlighted will be crucial in a green recovery from the pandemic, particularly improving energy efficiency across all sectors and significant investment in low carbon electricity generation”, he said.

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