Reaching net zero can only be achieved by setting clear renewable energy milestones to be met by 2030, according to a new report from RenewableUK.
In Raising the bar: the world-leading energy commitments the UK should make ahead of COP26 the association calls for specific development targets for onshore wind, floating wind, renewable hydrogen and marine energy.
This includes reaching 30GW of onshore wind by the end of the decade, the development of which is critical to decarbonisation as the cheapest form of renewable generation currently. As well as reducing emissions, reaching this milestone could support 31,000 UK jobs by 2035 the report suggested.
The newly elected governments in Scotland and Wales should set an example by establishing complimentary 2030 onshore wind targets, to support on overarching UK-wide 30GW target continued RenewableUK. Policy changes should be enacted to make it easier for developers to "make the most" of existing wind farms, allowing older turbines to be repowered with modern technology.
Beyond onshore wind, the report calls for the existing 1GW of floating wind by 2030 target to be doubled, helping to establish the UK as a global leader for the technology. It is expected to open up vast areas for development, as it can be installed in much deeper waters than fixed offshore wind. As countries such as Japan, South Africa and Brazil look to capitalise on the new technology, UK exports and jobs could increase if it can establish itself as a global leader.
The UK has one of the “strongest records on decarbonisation in the world” according to RenewableUK’s head of public affairs Nathan Bennett, “but to get to net zero emissions as fast as possible and ensure we’re maximising jobs and investment, the government needs to set out a detailed roadmap with specific milestones for the key renewable technologies which will get us there – starting with targets for 2030".
“We must ensure there are no gaps in our own ambitions if we’re to set the agenda for the rest of the world.”
Beyond wind, the report calls for a minimum target of 5GW of green hydrogen electrolyser capacity by the end of the decade. It pointed to projects underway currently like the Gigastack project in the Humber, and urged more ambition that capitalises on excess offshore wind generation.
Green hydrogen is increasingly seen as key to decarbonising sectors such as manufacturing and heavy vehicles, which do not lend themselves to electrification. As such it could provide a key route to reaching the UK’s net zero by 2050 and 78% emissions reduction by 2035 targets.
The report follows the association’s Renewable Hydrogen - Seizing the UK Opportunity document released in September, which outlined the scale of opportunity in the sector for the UK.
A 1GW target should be set for marine energy RenewableUK continued, pointing to studies that suggest at that point, the cost of the technology will fall to the level of nuclear power. Revenue support mechanisms should be established to support the investment and development needed, including government-supported Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and the inclusion of tidal and wave in future CfD auctions, something currently under consideration.
“Over-arching commitments to decarbonise by 2035 and 2050 are a great starting point, but there is so much to be gained by fleshing out comprehensive plans for renewable development which will underpin this,” continued Bennett.
“By enhancing our renewable energy targets, the UK doesn’t just show effective leadership on tackling climate change - we will also drive new investment and jobs in the renewable energy supply chain across the UK. We’re in a position to be a world-leader in technologies like floating wind, green hydrogen and marine energy, grasping the export potential of each industry’s inevitable global growth”.
Ministers should work closely with industry to maximise the number of apprenticeships and retraining opportunities that developing renewables of the scale suggested would create. This would help to ensure there is a Just Transition to renewables, offering fresh opportunities in particular to areas that need levelling up.