Net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is achievable

National Grid ESO has just launched its 2019 Future Energy Scenarios (FES) report, mapping out credible pathways and scenarios for the future of energy for the next 30 years and beyond. It’s THE report to read, combining insight from 600 stakeholders with the expertise of industry specialists and hard data from its team of experienced analysts. Four key messages emerge from FES and over the next few weeks Kayte O’Neill, ESO Head of Strategy and Regulation, delves into each one and what it means.

The first key message is that reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is achievable but it requires immediate action across all key technologies and policy areas.

Under the Climate Change Act of 2008, the UK Government had a target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. However, in June, the Government committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This would make the UK the first member of the G7 group of industrialised nations to legislate for net zero emissions. 

While initial decarbonisation targets can be reached through multiple technology pathways, net zero requires immediate action. Both energy efficiency and carbon capture will be needed at a significantly greater scale, with the widespread production of low carbon hydrogen and the use of low carbon heat for industrial processes. On top of this, the use of negative emissions technology will be required to offset the carbon emissions for processes that are very difficult to decarbonise.

If we are to meet the net zero target, homes in 2050 will need to use at least one third less energy for heating than today. One technological change that must take place for this to become a reality is that the gas system needs to be transformed to accommodate hydrogen. Alongside this, a policy change needs to take place — gas appliance standards must require boilers to be hydrogen-ready in order to leverage replacement cycles.

We’d need to see approximately 20 per cent more electricity generation capacity, with renewables and gas-fired generation paired with carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) helping meet this increased demand.

These are just two examples of change that needs to occur to reach our target. In the 2019 FES report, you can also find out more about the changes to industrial and commercial demand and road transport.

To learn more about this first key message, watch this bite sized video from Juliette Richards, ESO Insights Lead.

If you have any questions about the 2050 target or National Grid ESO’s Future Energy Scenarios, please get in touch. You can also CLICK HERE for the full report.