UK’s low carbon industries demand urgent grid decarbonisation

24 May 2021

The UK Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), RenewableUK and Solar Energy UK, representing the UK’s three leading zero-carbon power generators, are calling for urgent action to build new wind, nuclear and solar capacity for a binding target of 100% grid decarbonisation by 2035.

Data from the National Grid ESO shows that the carbon intensity of electricity – the measure of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed – was approximately 5% higher in the first four months of 2021 compared with the first four months of 2020. Gas-fired generation was 22% higher, driven by the need to meet demand. The grid was on average 20% dirtier in April 2021 than in April 2020, with a carbon intensity of 200 gCO2/kWh.

Decarbonising the grid is essential if the government is to achieve its target of a 78% reduction in emissions by 2035, and net zero by 2050. The three associations are calling for a rise in the carbon price to be consistent with delivering grid decarbonisation by 2035, as well as the following actions:

RenewableUK is calling for government to set specific 2030 deployment targets for key renewable technologies that they represent: 30GW of onshore wind, 2GW of floating wind, and 5GW of green hydrogen electrolyser capacity, as well as 1GW of marine energy in the 2030s. RenewableUK Deputy CEO Melanie Onn, said:

“We’re urging Ministers to set out key milestones in renewable technologies which will help us to decarbonise the grid as fast as possible. In the run-up to COP26, we need a detailed roadmap including specific deployment targets for onshore wind, floating wind, renewable hydrogen and marine energy to be achieved by the end of this decade”.

Solar Energy UK is calling for a specific government target of 40GW of solar deployment by 2030, and to support this by reinstating funding and ending VAT for green home upgrades, reforming business rates for large solar roofs, and providing annual contract0for-difference auctions for solar until the end of the decade. Solar Energy UK CEO Chris Hewett said:“A truly resilient net zero grid, in line with the Government’s climate ambitions, needs a broad mix of zero-carbon technologies. Solar is becoming a major global industry and the UK must keep pace. We need to see solar energy trebled in capacity by the end of the decade, in keeping with forecasts produced by the Climate Change Committee.”

NIA is calling for government endorsement of a financing model for new nuclear projects this year and for a plan for be drawn up to restore nuclear capacity to existing levels by the early 2030s.

NIA CEO Tom Greatrex said: “We need to invest in a new generation of nuclear stations to hit net zero and help level up the country. We know that nuclear and renewables work well together to cut emissions, and that strong low-carbon energy mix is our future.”

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