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Businesses call for end to unabated gas in Britain’s electricity system by 2035

As much as £14bn of additional investment in renewables will be needed to reach the 2035 target. Image: Getty.

As much as £14bn of additional investment in renewables will be needed to reach the 2035 target. Image: Getty.

Businesses have called on the government to set an end date for the use of unabated gas in the electricity sector in the UK.

In a letter penned to Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng MP, the chief executive of 13 major businesses urged ministers to set a target of 2035. This would tie in with the target recently set by the Biden Administration in the US.

The companies, which include the BT Group, Triodos Bank and WSP, said they stand ready to play their part in delivering fully decarbonised electricity by 2035.

While it will be a challenge, and require new investment in renewable energy of £14 billion annually the letter notes, they are confident it can be achieved.

“As COP26 approaches, we believe the time is right for the UK to signal an end to the use of unabated fossil fuels in the power sector, claiming another historic first,” the companies wrote. “There is now a clear pathway to delivering emissions-free electricity, as analysis by the Climate Change Committee and the IEA shows.

“This pathway must be one that does not rely on expensive technologies but will instead leave both consumers and the taxpayer better off while supporting skilled employment in all parts of the country as we build a new zero emissions power sector.”

The full list of signatories includes; Bioregional, BT Group, Wilmott Dixon, Chapmanbdsp, Triodos Bank, Mitie, Nestlé UK&I, EAUC, Co-Op Food, Anglian Water, Thames Water, WSP and Landsec.

The letter comes as think tank Ember releases the results of a YouGov poll, which shows 66% of British adults would support a 2035 target for 100% clean electricity.

Of those surveyed, 37% ‘strongly supported’ the setting of a target, while 29% ‘tend to support’ and 23% were undecided. Just 11% opposed the target.

Overall 66% of British adults support a 2035 target. Image: Ember.
Overall 66% of British adults support a 2035 target. Image: Ember.

“Setting an end date for gas power gives the Government a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate their climate credentials ahead of COP26, and to repeat the international success of the UK’s world-leading coal phase-out,” Ember’s COO Phil MacDonald said.

“Crucially, rapidly moving away from gas can cut energy bills: making the switch from expensive imported gas to cheap homegrown wind and solar.”

The call for a 2035 target comes amidst surging wholesale prices, which have contributed to six small suppliers collapsing this month. These prices have been driven largely by a global gas shortage, with rising fossil fuel costs accounting for 86% of UK electricity prices according to recent research from Ember.

As such, moving away from gas would allow the country to mitigate the impact of global fluctuations. Already, the UK is set to be coal free by 2024, and National Grid ESO expects Britain's power system to run emission free for periods of time by 2025.

“Experts agree: the UK electricity system can rapidly end its contribution to climate change, whilst becoming cheaper and more secure,” finished MacDonald.

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