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Looking ahead to a greener 2050

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 5 years ago

​Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the UK economy by 2050 is the recommendation from the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and this would certainly have an impact on the current energy systems. We would need four-times as much low carbon power output, doubling electricity demand and a more aggressive electric vehicle initiative than we’re currently seeing today.

If we are to achieve the ambition of wide-scale deployment of low carbon power, especially renewables, we need to start in the early 2020s to meet the 2050 deadline. Starting with phasing out coal, the 2030s and 2040s would drive continued expansion of renewables and decarbonisation of peak power generation (developing hydrogen as a fuel for existing plants).

Whilst the CCC hasn’t proposed the methods of generating cleaner power it does suggest that it’s possible to deploy 75GW of offshore wind power 2050, which is almost ten times the current output, suggesting wind and solar – the cheapest options – will be at the forefront of energy evolution.

But how much will this cost? The CCC have forecasted that solar PV electricity could be as cheap as £41/MWh by 2050 with offshore wind reducing from £69/MWh in 2025 to just £51/MWh by 2050 – which is great news, but what about the subsidies? They’re not expected to decline any time soon. Current levies are expected to rise from £7 billion to around £12 billion by 2030, they should then fall however £4 billion per year will still be in place from 2050 onwards.

The CCC caveat that the cost of low carbon policies has been more than offset by energy efficiency improvements and the expectation is for greater improvements in the future.

Generation leads to distribution

It’s not just the actual power generation we need to think of – it will all need to be transmitted and distributed to its destination, calling for a rapid expansion of infrastructure to support this over the next 30 years. Networks undoubtedly will need to be upgraded and the CCC suggests future-proofing to ensure this doesn’t need to be done multiple times prior to 2050 (to relieve customers of further costs and ensure the system can cope during peak demand). All of which will need to be supported by the government working in partnership with the National Infrastructure Commission

Will driving Electric Vehicles (EV) help?

By 2030 there could be 21 million electric vehicles on the road globally* and if the UK is meet the 2050 net zero target, the electric vehicle market needs a push right now to ensure further adoption of zero emission vehicles. We’re already falling short of our neighbours in Scotland and Norway with our 2040 deadline banning new petrol and diesel car sales.

The growth in adoption of electric vehicles could cut annual net costs of transport by £5 billion by 2050 but these vehicles will require more comprehensive charging networks than currently available. As many as 1,200 rapid chargers (near major roads) and 27,000 public chargers (in and around towns), are needed by 2030 if we are to support this initiative.

Whatever the future brings, with the diversification of technologies, fast-moving innovation and the looming deadlines ahead, this potentially could see excellent opportunities in this sector for new roles and prospects for progression. In offshore wind alone, Renewable UK predict they are looking to support 27,000** direct jobs by 2030.

Jobs in this sector build the future energy systems to help the environment for years to come so the world is a better place to be. If you are part of this exciting, change driven sector, get in touch withRichard Hawkesfordto talk about roles you need to fill or perhaps even your next career move.