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Dr David Clarke, Energy Technologies Institute: Mix of CCS, nuclear and renewablesRSS

In David’s pathway, 56% of primary energy will be imported and emissions will be 81% below 1990 levels in 2050.

David did not select Level 4 (maximum) effort in any sectors.

Highlights from David’s pathway

  • Plug-in, electric and fuel cell cars cover 80% of passenger miles
  • Mix of CCS, nuclear and renewables used. 13 nuclear stations (delivering 280 TWh/yr in 2050), 25-30 CCS stations (delivering 240 TWh/yr in 2050), and 10,000 wind turbines (delivering 180 TWh/yr in 2050)
  • 4m2 of photovoltaic panels per person in 2050
  • 10% of land used for bioenergy in 2050
  • See David’s pathway in the 2050 web tool

I believe we need a route to 2050 which offers practicality (in terms of supply-chain delivery), affordability (in both capital cost to the UK and broader economic impact), security (by using a range of fuels, of generation and by reducing demand), and rationality – seeking to limit the need for extensive societal and behavioural change. The DECC calculator gives a good view of the challenging extent of change needed and it gives us a feel for the rationality and practicality of options but it does not yet tell us the cost. 

At ETI we model many pathways to 2050 and look for the lowest cost routes – including new technology developments. A UK energy system (power, heat, transport and infrastructure) capable of -80% CO2e is likely to cost around £360bn in year 2050 (~2% of GDP). The design of such a ‘cost optimised’ system is broadly in line with my chosen DECC calculator pathway and focuses on using a range of new generation sources (for security and practicality) and significant improvements to energy efficiency in buildings (for affordability within rational and practical constraints).

Nuclear, CCS (with fossil fuels and biomass), bioenergy, offshore wind and tidal currents will all be needed to deliver affordable, secure electricity. Electricity will be heavily used to deliver low carbon heat as well as power.  Not implementing these options means achieving the -80% target will require other, more expensive delivery systems costing as much as £90bn more per year to mitigate emissions without using biomass or an additional £15bn per year without using nuclear. Microgeneration has minimal impact on national CO2e emissions and affordability but may be useful in raising societal awareness and behavioural change so I have some elements in my pathway.

Reducing demand through energy efficiency in buildings plus individuals changing their behaviour around energy use will be critical in achieving emission reductions and in limiting new capacity we have to build into the energy system to support UK population growth by 12% to 70 million in 2050. 

At ETI we look at behavioural issues in take-up of new technology. Results from our projects are identifying new routes for ‘mass customisation’ retrofit of the current 27 million UK domestic properties.  Without these rational and affordable installation systems few people will invest in major energy efficiency measures for their homes. 

Coupling new generation with a rational level of insulation and energy efficiency improvements, the calculator view on my pathway gets us to -78% emissions. To get the last few %, without hoping people will limit temperature increase of their homes and without making the UK economy unaffordable for industry, I have opted for significant efficiency improvements in heavy industry and implementing CCS on major industrial processes. ETI are investing in innovative small-scale CCS for industrial process plant – this may be a critical emissions reduction ‘insurance policy’ for the UK in the long term.

I think my pathway is largely practical – I have avoided geosequestration and further increases in bioenergy imports which could bring additional challenges in sustainability and cost. Global competition for limited resources such as biofuels or uranium may bring unaffordable price increases. One thing that is certain – the future is unpredictable.

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