The UK is likely to miss its 2020 renewable energy targets, according to a report today from National Grid.
In its Future Energy Scenarios document, National Grid presents four potential pathways for the energy landscape in Britain to 2050.
But it concludes that even if Britain follows the most pro-clean energy forecast, it will still miss the 2020 target, which is to produce 15 per cent of its energy from renewables.
The first of the four National Grid scenarios is called ‘Gone Green’, and envisages “a world where policy interventions and innovation are both ambitious and effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.
However even under this scenario, National Grid says the UK will only achieve 15 per cent from renewables by 2022. The least optimistic scenario is the fairly self-explanatory ‘No Progression’, which sees “a world where business as usual activities prevail. Society is focused on the short term, concentrating on affordability above green ambition. Traditional sources of gas and electricity dominate, with little innovation altering how energy is used.” Under this scenario, the UK would hit its 2020 renewable target by 2029.
The National Grid report states that heating is the stumbling block for the UK’s renewable ambitions. “The sector requiring most development is heating. To meet the 15 per cent target, renewable heat needs to increase by around 60 TWh from 2016 levels. Over the past four years there was an increase of less than 10 TWh, therefore the pace of change needs to increase significantly.”
The report also emphasises the role of gas in the need for the UK to decarbonize its electricity sector. “Gas will become an increasingly important source of flexible electricity generation. This flexibility will support the growth of renewable sources of electricity generation.
“We are also now anticipating an evolution of gas supplies. New sources of gas are under development to supplement traditional gas supplies. These include shale, biomethane, bio-substitute natural gas, and hydrogen from electricity to gas schemes.”
The report also notes that to make the decarbonisation transition, “the electricity generation sector requires at least two of nuclear, renewable and carbon capture and storage”.
Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and environment at the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said that the National Grid report “confirms that the recent cut in renewable energy subsidies, as well as the lack of clear policy to encourage low-carbon technologies, has led to a drop in investment in renewable energy”.
She said that “previous subsidies generated many new renewables projects, many of which are still coming online. These projects have led to an over generation of electricity on the grid at the wrong times, when demand is low, and this has yet to be balanced in an efficient or affordable way.”
Dr Baxter said new technologies that influence electricity generation and grid management are rapidly developing and stressed that “it is vital that both the government and National Grid plan for the consequences of these new technologies. As a country we do not want to pay for the delivery of stranded assets whether renewable or non-renewable.”
“The UK government needs to urgently clarify the country’s energy policies and regulations to provide developers with the certainty needed to invest in particular technologies, such as electricity storage.”