The 2050 Calculator is a transparent tool designed to illustrate the different options available to the UK for meeting its goal of reducing emissions by 80% in 2050, on 1990 levels, whilst ensuring a secure supply of energy. It covers all major sectors of the economy including energy, transport, industry and households, allowing the user to vary the level of action by area and technology. It uses the best available information from engineers, economists and scientists on what is technically possible.
The 2050 Calculator also introduces the concept of “total energy system cost”. This includes the cost of everything from power stations and industrial processes; to cars, planes and trains and the fuel they use; to gas boilers and cavity wall insulation. Costs are expressed as £/person/year; this is the cost to the overall economy and is not the same as household electricity and heating bills. The cost of not tackling climate change is not included in the Calculator, but the Stern Review estimated damages arising from population shifts, severe weather patterns and lost ecosystems could amount to a cost of up to 20% of global GDP.
To explore plausible scenarios for the ways in which the UK may meet its 2050 target, DECC has published four 2050 futures in the Carbon Plan (Annex A p.121) using the Calculator. But the futures are by no means prescriptive. One of the key features of the Calculator is that it allows the user to choose the technologies and level of effort, whether it be the efficiency of low emissions vehicles or the temperature that people will heat their homes to, that will drive how we supply and consume energy and our emissions over the coming decades. There are many thousands of other possible futures which reduce emissions by 80% and ensure secure energy supplies.
Core MARKAL (1): Using the cost optimising MARKAL model, this maps a low cost route for reducing the UK’s emissions by 80% by 2050. On the supply side nuclear (at 33 GW) and CCS (at 28 GW) deliver the bulk of energy supply, with wind, marine and hydro being the main renewable contribution to 45 GW installed capacity. Energy saved per capita is 50% thanks to improvements in home energy efficiency, more efficient vehicles and industry. This future would represent an annual saving of £84 per person per year over the 2010-2050 period when compared with doing nothing to reduce emissions, under central cost assumptions for technology and fossil fuels.
Higher renewables and more energy efficiency: This future assumes a major reduction in the cost of renewable generation alongside innovations that facilitate a large expansion in electricity storage. By 2050 renewables make up 106 GW installed capacity, with nuclear providing 16 GW, and CCS 13 GW. Energy saved per capita is 54% due to high installation of cavity and solid wall insulation, 100% shift to ultra low emission vehicles and greater use of public transport. This future would represent an annual cost of £367 per person per year over the 2010-2050 period when compared with doing nothing to reduce emissions under central cost assumptions for technology and fossil fuels.
Higher CCS and more bioenergy: This future assumes CCS technology deploys on a commercial scale. CCS represents 40 GW of installed capacity, using a mix of gas and high levels of bioenergy to generate ‘negative emissions’. Renewables (36 GW) and nuclear (20 GW) are other two important energy sources. Energy saved per capita is 43% due to lower installations of home insulation than in the Renewables future, and 65% of the car and van fleet is ultra low emission vehicles. This future would represent an annual cost of £469 per person per year over the 2010-2050 period when compared with doing nothing to reduce emissions under central cost assumptions for technology and fossil fuels.
Higher nuclear and less energy efficiency: This future is more cautious about innovation in newer technologies, relying heavily on technologies such as nuclear to meet our 2050 target, and also presumes that energy efficiency and behaviour change measures prove more difficult to roll-out. Nuclear makes up 75 GW of energy generation capacity by 2050, with the lowest levels of renewables (22 GW) and CCS (2 GW) when compared to the other 2050 futures. Energy saved per capita is the lowest of the 2050 futures at 31% due to lower levels of household insulation, and smaller savings from behaviour change both in the home and in transport. This future would represent an annual cost of £498 per person per year over the 2010-2050 period when compared with doing nothing to reduce emissions.
The flexibility of the Calculator allows the user to vary the costs of technologies and fossil fuels. This can be done using the Cost Sensitivity option on the see implications dropdown menu of the webtool in the top lefthand corner of the webpage. The following table shows how different assumptions for fossil fuel prices impact the costs of the four 2050 futures:
(1) For a more detailed explanation of the assumptions behind the each future, just click on the link in the future’s title, and select the it from the “Example Pathway” in the top right corner of the webpage