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ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

UK could save over £100bn with 100% renewable energy net zero plan

25/1/2023

Close up of offshore wind turbine with sea and other turbines behind Photo: Bureau Veritas 
The UK government should focus on funding renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage capacity with offshore wind dominating the mix, a new study has found

Photo: Bureau Veritas 

A new report has concluded that a 100% renewable energy mix in the UK would save over £100bn in achieving net zero by 2050 compared to the government’s current strategy, plus more than 20% lower cumulative carbon emissions.

The report from 100percentrenewableuk, carried out by energy modelling academics at LUT University in Finland, involves hour-by-hour simulation of different scenarios for reaching net zero for UK energy systems.

 

It is claimed to be the first time that a 100% renewable model has been directly compared to the current UK government’s pathway, which includes nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

 

The study identifies a preferred scenario focusing on offshore wind, which includes large amounts of inter-annual energy storage to cope with fluctuations in wind power outputs within and between years. It concludes that the more onshore wind power and solar photovoltaics (PV) are used, the cheaper the path to net zero becomes. All scenarios studied include the same assumptions for demands for energy services. Real 100% zero carbon emissions are reached, which is more than the government’s current pathway will achieve, says the report.

 

The research presents several energy system transition pathways to 100% renewable energy in 2050. Of the four scenarios, only one has inter-annual storage:

  • Best policy scenario (BPS) – aiming for 100% renewable energy in 2050, with offshore wind as the main resource, limiting onshore wind and solar PV according to available land area.
  • Inter-annual storage (IAS) – this adds on to the BPS the required inter-annual storage needed to provide good levels of insurance against the possibilities of low-wind years.
  • BPSplus – which tests the limits of higher land area availability for onshore wind and solar PV, and where renewable electricity-based e-fuel imports are also allowed.
  • Current policy scenario (CPS) – which adopts the UK government’s strategy for net zero as published in 2020.

 

The report also finds that storing renewable energy as renewable electricity-based methane in conventional natural gas storage facilities is the most cost-effective means of inter-annual storage. The methane is converted from air captured CO2 and green hydrogen using renewable electricity. This strategy avoids the use of natural gas from environmentally destructive drilling as required by UK government scenarios (with CCS). Government projections involve producing large amounts of electricity and hydrogen from natural gas.

 

Commenting on the study, Dr David Toke, the report’s convenor, says: ‘The benefits of a fully renewable energy system in achieving net zero are clear. Far from simply keeping the lights on, they ensure secure and reliable energy for the UK, with huge economic savings compared to other options and incredible job creation opportunities.’

 

He concludes: ‘The implications of this report are huge. All public and enforced consumer spending on new nuclear power and CCS should be scrapped and instead funding should be put into renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage capacity.’