The Informer

This week’s headlines: A six-fold rise in renewable capacity in the last decade has helped GB decarbonise faster than any other country; Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle sees a new minister in charge of energy; and a forecast claims electrification of transport could more than halve emissions.

  • Renewables help GB to world’s fastest decarbonisation

    A rapid transition to renewable energy has helped Great Britain decarbonise faster than anywhere else in the world over the past decade, according to a report.

    Between 2010 and 2019, carbon emissions fell from 161 million metric tonnes to just 54 million metric tonnes according to the report Imperial College London for Drax Electric Insights.

    The Electric Insights Quarterly October to December 2019 report shows the fall in emissions was driven by a shift from coal to renewables coupled with a decline in electricity demand.

    Output from renewables has grown every year, with output in 2019 being more than eight times higher than in 2010. The capacity of wind, solar, biomass and hydro has grown six-fold in that time, from 5.2 GW in 2010 to 38.5 GW in 2019.

    Over the decade, demand for electricity fell by 13%, despite population growth of 7%. However, the pointed out that as electric vehicles and heat pumps are increasingly deployed in an effort to decarbonise, demand for electricity is likely to increase again.

    Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London said the power system has transformed “at a speed never seen before."

    “If this pace of change can be maintained, renewables could provide more than half Britain’s electricity by the end of this decade and the power system could be practically carbon free.”

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  • Sharma named to replace Leadsom after cabinet cull

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has chosen former International Development Secretary Alok Sharma to replace Andrea Leadsom as Business and Energy Secretary.

    Sharma will also be the minister responsible for the COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow in November.

    As COP26 President, he replaces former Energy Minister Claire Perry O’Neill, who tweeted: “Alok is a very good person who I am sure will get to grips quickly with the challenge.”

    Amy MacConnachie, head of external affairs at the Renewable Energy Association, said there is no doubt Sharma “has a lot of work to do.”

    “There are significant and numerous policy blockages that are causing stagnation in deployment, new investment and jobs across the UK in the renewable energy and clean technology sector.”

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  • Net zero ‘needs to be driven by existing technologies’

    The world cannot wait for new technologies to be developed and must instead drive incremental change through existing methods, according to the Absolute Zero report from the UK Fires collaboration.

    The group – which consists of Bath, Cambridge, Nottingham and Oxford universities and Imperial College London – called for a switch to 100% electrification.

    It suggested changes including driving smaller cars, taking public transport and using heat-pumps.

    “Apart from flying and shipping, all of our current uses of energy could be electrified,” the report said.

    “With tremendous commitment, the UK could generate enough non-emitting electricity to deliver about 60% of our current final energy-demand but we could make better use of that through incremental changes in the technologies that convert energy into transport, heating and products.”

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  • Electrification of transport could more than halve emissions

    Greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by 60% by 2050 if the transport, buildings and industrial sectors are electrified, according to a report.

    Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF’s) Sector Coupling in Europe: Powering Decarbonization report said measures would require a 75% expansion of generation capacity above and beyond what would be needed without electrifying the sectors.

    The expansion in generation would come from solar and wind, the report said, with a need to reinforce the grid and install battery storage to balance intermittent renewables.

    Victoria Cuming, Head of Global Policy Analysis for BNEF, said: “Electrification, or ‘sector coupling’ as it’s known in some countries, could make a huge contribution to the achievement of governments’ emission-reduction targets by exploiting the low-carbon transition already underway in the power generation sector."

    “Governments should introduce incentives or requirements to cut emissions from building heat, support demonstration projects for electrification, and iron out barriers to the production of green hydrogen.”

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  • Global emissions from energy see benefit of decarbonisation efforts

    Data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that global carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector flatlined during 2019, despite predictions they would rise for a third year in a row.

    Emissions in Europe fell by 5% thanks to a continuing switch from burning coal in power stations to using gas instead, along with a more recent shift towards wind energy, including the UK’s offshore wind expansion.

    The United States recorded a 2.9% fall, despite criticism of President Donald Trump’s energy policy.

    Developing nations’ emissions edged higher, mainly due to increased use of coal to fuel power stations in Asia.

    Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, said: “We now need to work hard to make sure that 2019 is remembered as a definitive peak in global emissions, not just another pause in growth.”

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