A new report concludes that a 100% renewable energy mix for the UK would save well over £100bn in achieving net zero by 2050, compared to the UK Government’s current strategy. It would also mean more than 20% lower cumulative carbon emissions in the process. The study, carried out by renowned energy modelling academics at LUT University in Finland, involves hour-by-hour simulation of different scenarios for reaching net zero for UK energy systems.
The report was commissioned by 100percentrenewableuk, with energy modelling academics from LUT University, a cutting-edge science university in Finland.
It is 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. Besides saving enormous sums of money, a fully renewable energy system would also ensure the UK’s energy security.
‘The benefits of a fully renewable energy system in achieving net zero are clear,’ said Dr David Toke, specialist in energy politics and the report’s convenor. ‘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.’
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. The report concludes that the more onshore wind power and solar photovoltaics 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 pathway will achieve.
The research presents several energy system transition pathways to 100% renewable energy in 2050 in high-spatial and temporal resolution, by describing the energy system of the UK in full detail from the starting point of today in five-year time steps until 2050. In total, four scenarios were conducted, only one of which (IAS) which has inter-annual storage:
- One scenario, called Best Policy Scenario (BPS), aimed for 100% renewable energy in 2050, with offshore wind as the main resource, limiting onshore wind and solar photovoltaics according to available land area;
- A second scenario called Inter-Annual Storage (IAS) adds on (to the BPS) required inter-annual storage needed to provide good levels of insurance against the possibilities of low-wind years;
- A third scenario (BPSplus) tested the limits of higher land area availability for onshore wind and solar photovoltaics, and where also renewable electricity-based e-fuel imports are allowed;
- Finally, a fourth scenario – Current Policy Scenario (CPS) – adopted the UK Government’s strategy for net zero as published in 2020.
Jonathon Porritt, Co-Founder of Forum for the Future, said: ‘Here in the UK we have an amazing opportunity to do our bit – by meeting all our energy needs (not just electricity) from renewables and storage by 2050. If you’re sceptical about the feasibility of that ambition level, then dig deep into this report – and see your hope rekindled!’
Dr Toke continued: ‘The implications of this report are huge. All public and enforced consumer spending on new nuclear power and carbon capture and storage should be scrapped and instead funding should be put into renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage capacity.’
The report also found 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 carbon capture and storage). Government projections involve producing large amounts of electricity and hydrogen from natural gas.
THE FULL REPORT CAN BE ACCESSED HERE: 100percentRenewableuk.org/…/100-RE-23-Dec-.pdf
INCLUDED AND ALSO ADDITIONAL CHARTS AND FIGURES CAN BE SEEN HERE: 100_percent_RE_UK_Results_R2_final2
You can see the youtube recording of our seminar on 100percent renewable energy for the UK held in London on April 22nd HERE
Speakers at the event were: introduction by Caroline Lucas MP, David Toke, Ian Fairlie (both 100percentrenewableuk), Professor Christian Breyer (LUT University), Dr Doug Parr (Greenpeace), Alethea Warrington (Possible), Rianna Gargiulo (Friends of the Earth and Divest UK), Charmian Larke (Atlantic Energy), Jonathon Porritt, Professor Mark Barrett (UCL), Professor Dave Elliott, Professor Nick Eyre (University of Oxford), Alison Downes (Stop Sizewell C), Kate Hudson (CND) and Dave Andrews (Claverton Group)