The UK could achieve net zero with proven technology, eliminating the need for carbon capture and storage (CCS), a new report suggests.
The report from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) outlines a scenario where the UK could reach net zero only using proven technology.
The three pillars of the scenario are reducing demand through increased efficiency and behaviour change, ramping up renewables and transforming land use, for instance reforestation.
Renewable energy would meet 100% of the demand – forecasted to produce 1,185TWh compared to the annual demand of 815TWh – with 66% of that being electricity sourced from renewables. Of this, wind provides around half.
Hourly modelling shows a surplus of energy 74% of the time. Due to the high numbers of renewables, over a third of total electricity produced, around 300TWh a year, is surplus. However, 26% of the time, electricity supply does not fully meet demand.
Batteries and pumped storage with a total capacity of 200GWh would be used for short term storage, which the report classifies as hours or days, as well as 200GWh of heat storage. For longer duration storage over weeks or months, hydrogen and synthetic gas could be used.
Shifting demand from smart appliances and EV charging would also be used, bringing the proportion of time when electricity supply doesn’t meet demand down to 11%.
That remaining shortfall would be met with biogas and carbon neutral synthetic gas, which would be burned in gas power stations.
Electrolysis units with a maximum power consumption of 25GW would use the surplus electricity, with the rest exported.
Peter Tyldesley, chief executive officer at CAT, said the research shows how the UK could achieve net zero in a way that improves quality of life and enhances biodiversity.
“What’s now urgently needed is a UK Zero Carbon Action Plan with policy frameworks and large-scale investment to support the roll out of these solutions as quickly as possible.”
The first large-scale carbon capture plant in the UK is to be built after receiving a £4.2 million grant from the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through the Carbon Capture and Utilisation Demonstration (CCUD) programme.
BEIS has also made several funding announcements for carbon capture recently, including £170 million for deploying both carbon capture and hydrogen networks in industrial clusters and plans to recycle oil and gas infrastructure for use in CCUS.
However, Paul Allen, project coordination at CAT, said relying on "speculative" future technology to reach net zero risks overshooting the remaining carbon budget.
“By modelling a zero carbon scenario using only technology that is ready to be rolled out at scale, CAT’s research shows that there is no good reason to take this risk. We have the technology to combat climate change, and we can start today," Allen continued.