The UK must reduce its emissions by 78% by 2035 in order to reach net zero by 2050, the Climate Change Committee today outlined in its Sixth Carbon Budget.
Low-carbon electricity is to play a key role in this, with a carbon neutral energy system that uses renewables such as offshore wind and solar as its backbone a central step in the colossal report. This will need to be combined with flexibility from storage and demand side response, as well as scaling up green hydrogen both for use in hard to decarbonise areas and for use as long-term storage in order to holistically reduce emissions and at least double electricity generation.
The landmark report has been broadly welcomed by the energy sector, who told Current± they commended the ambition but more concrete guidance is still needed for the sector.
Energy UK’s chief executive, Emma Pinchbeck
“The UK’s commitment to cut the country’s emissions by at least 68% by 2030 is the most ambitious decarbonisation target of any major economy and represents the chance to build a fairer, cleaner and more resilient economy. The Committee on Climate Change’s gigantic Sixth Carbon Budget advice, published today, shows that the target is deliverable on the way to a fully decarbonised economy by 2050.
“The energy sector is central to the delivery of net zero – whether building new clean power generation, helping people install new heating systems or making the best use of electric vehicles. As the Committee on Climate Change advises today, we need to match government and business ambition with immediate policy. We want the imminent energy white paper to lay out the policies we need to unlock the investment and innovation required for the huge and exciting challenge of net zero.”
Delta-EE's head of heat research, Lindsay Sugden
“Today’s Carbon Budget puts into sharp focus just how much we need to do in the next five years to reach the target of a 78% emissions cut in 2035. Around one million heat pumps need to be installed per year to make an impact on that figure – up from just ~32,000 a year at the moment – so it’s an exponential leap. The challenge is greatest in existing buildings, where currently less than 1 in 100 boilers is replaced with a low carbon alternative – this needs to increase to 1 in 3 to get near the target. Customer and installer adoption are strong barriers, and incentives alone have struggled to overcome this.
“The combined stick and carrot approach now proposed, with a possible ban on natural gas boilers by 2033 combined with subsidies and grants, will be vital to increase uptake of low carbon heating. A long-term plan with stable support is critical for the industry to have the confidence to invest in the supply chain and labour force needed to make this exponential leap in low carbon heating”
Kiwi Power's chief executive officer, Jay Zoellner
“To achieve a completely low-carbon system by 2035, as the CCC suggests, flexibility will be paramount. While it will be important to build new flexibility assets through hydrogen, storage, and interconnection, we must not overlook the significant role that businesses and householders can play. Further, this additional flexibility must be built hand in hand with renewable integration, it cannot be an afterthought that we address in the 2030s.”
The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology's (REA) chief executive, Dr Nina Skorupska CBE
“The headline from the Sixth Carbon Budget will be the 78% reduction in GHG emissions being brought forward by 15 years and that this can be achieved whilst supporting green jobs growth and an economic recovery. There are many additional and welcome elements within the report - the support for a range of bioenergy technologies and energy crops; the doubling of electricity generation which will all be low-carbon; and the restoration of peat landscapes and new woodland, are particular highlights.
“This Carbon Budget does provide a basis from which the government can look to build their carbon reduction agenda. If we start reducing emissions today rather than tomorrow, we will have a far greater chance of avoiding global temperature rises and tackling climate change.”
Energy Networks Association chief executive, David Smith
“The Sixth Carbon Budget makes clear not only the scale of the task we face but also the opportunities that a green economic recovery can bring. Hydrogen and heat pumps will play a vital role in providing the public with net zero heating options, while energising a hydrogen economy will help to slash emissions from industry creating jobs and continuing the UK’s leadership in green innovation.
“Providing Ofgem enables a supportive policy framework the energy network companies will attract the necessary investment delivering the public with the smarter, net zero emissions energy system they need at the least cost possible.”
TUC's general secretary, Frances O’Grady
“To reach net zero, we need a shared sense of national purpose. Everyone must understand how they will benefit from a climate-safe economy, clean air, healthy land, restored wildlife and new green industries.
“For working people, a just transition means knowing that job security and quality is guaranteed, with training for the great new jobs in green industries. This must begin quickly, to prevent mass unemployment following the pandemic. By fast-tracking public investment in green infrastructure, the government can create over a million jobs in the next two years.
“The only true just transition plan is one that’s made with workers, rather than done to workers. If workers have a genuine say, there will be stronger community backing, so progress will be both fairer and faster. And we’ll all become proud when our generation delivers a major upgrade to Britain that improves everyone’s quality of life.”
RenewableUK’s head of policy and regulation, Rebecca Williams
“The CCC is right to urge government to move faster to reach net zero by taking a series of key steps which will benefit consumers by delivering cheap energy, as well as slashing carbon emissions.
“As their latest report states, low-cost offshore wind will play a major role as the backbone of our future power system with up to 140GW installed by 2050 – a fourteen-fold increase in our current capacity - and we also need a ramping up of onshore wind and innovative technologies like floating wind, tidal stream and renewable hydrogen to get there.
“The report highlights the fact that this will deliver tens of thousands of new jobs throughout the UK, especially including regions which need levelling up most, as part of the Just Transition from fossil fuels to renewables. As the report points out, certainty over consenting issues and auctions for contracts to generate power will help to increase investment in the UK renewable energy supply chain.
“Taking these steps will demonstrate that the UK government is leading efforts to tackle dangerous climate change in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow next year, where we can demonstrate global leadership on the biggest long-term threat all of us are facing”.
Drax CEO, Will Gardiner
“The government’s new 68% NDC commitment last week, alongside this report, reinforce how net zero will only be achievable through negative emissions and sustainable BECCS in the UK. This world-leading technology can showcase the UK’s global leadership in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow next year.”
Ground Source Heat Pump Association chair, Laura Bishop
“There is a huge amount of content in the CCC’s report to gladden the hearts of the heat pump sector, with an ever stronger emphasis on the dominant role that electrification will play for heat in buildings.”
“It is essential that the government sets a clear commitment to electrification through the 2020s, including a stable and long-term support framework to build the heat pump supply chain to sufficient scale to deliver near-term emissions reductions and keep full electrification on the table.”
Enzen Group's head of UK and Europe, Sanjay Neogi
“The Sixth Carbon Budget highlights that the journey to net zero will involve a significant transformation of our energy use. As such, we need a plan to match, with a clear end goal and the steps to get us there. Investors, consumers and businesses need to make decisions today to help us reach our 2035 decarbonisation target of 78%.
“We can clearly identify the pillars of change from heating and buildings to waste, transport and aviation. But the success of this transformation will depend on getting the details right. Crucially, we can't make such changes in isolation and need a joined-up approach across all aspects of energy efficiency to ensure the transformation delivers maximum benefit."