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  • Writer's pictureFranklin Servan-Schreiber

Net-Zero UK Government Plan is Fantasy

The UK voted to be net carbon-zero by 2050, but the Atkins Engineering reports highlights that the government's plan: "... relies on Carbon Capture, of which we have zero current capability, or a much larger amount of renewables and, an as yet undefined, large storage capability." Basically, it's fantasy.

If we want to effectively fight off CO2 we need to urgently address nuclear and hydrogen, as we recommend at Transmutex and as recommended in the report by Atkins Engineering.

Key recommandations from the Atkins Report:

" How does the UK’s energy system meet the Net Zero 2050 challenge?

Net Zero by 2050 is achievable but not without substantial changes to the UK’s energy mix and requiring significant investment. This demands a 30-year complex programme.

To achieve Net Zero the UK needs:

- A flexible approach to ultimate system configuration

It is impractical to define the ultimate post 2050 energy system today. However, decisions taken in the next few years will set the framework within which markets must deliver Net Zero. We must keep options open and avoid pursuit of short-term, least cost solutions that may not lead to the optimal long-term system.

- An Energy System Architect

The 2050 Net Zero Energy System will be highly complex.

Effective system balancing is essential, and the optimal system will not be delivered without Government intervention. This should be based on a strategic view of the entire ‘system architecture’ and evaluation of the whole system cost.

The UK needs a single body to plan and optimise the overall 2050 energy system configuration across generation, infrastructure and transport. The creation of an Energy Systems Architect (ESA) is critical to its success.

- Clean, reliable, consistent nuclear power

Clean, reliable, consistent nuclear has an important role to play in the UK’s journey to Net Zero. With declining UK gas production, nuclear offers the only firm low carbon power with assured security of supply.

The UK needs an increased focus on its nuclear strategy, and the development of innovative approaches to financing and construction risk.

Nuclear presents a low technological risk but is significantly challenged by the current financial model. 8.4GW is being constructed or planned via Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C and Bradwell B.

- A key role from Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is critical to the Net Zero scenario due to a continued reliance on CCGT as part of the generationmix, as well as the use of steam meathane reforming for hydrogen production.

The Net Zero scenario requires the UK to have 40% of UK’s energy dependent on CCS. That equates to an equivalent volume of CO2 that is four times the current global CCS capacity by 2050. The UK currently has no CCS industry and no firm plan in place to deliver this. The Government needs to bring forward and fund pilot carbon capture and storage projects as quickly as possible to enable up to 176 Million Tons (MT) of CO2 sequestration per annum required in the 2050 Net Zero scenario. (note: CCS requires lots of electricity...)

- Increased capacity from renewable energy sources, primarily offshore wind

Offshore Wind development has been a success for the UK’s partnership between Government and industry. The Offshore Wind Sector Deal calls for the rapid growth of our offshore wind capacity from less than 10GW today, to 30GW by 2030. This is achievable in terms of build rate, but there are uncertainties regarding the challenges of integration, system balancing and stability. Net Zero requires 75GW by 2050. Technical challenges require the UK Government and industry to: implement measures to address the ‘hidden costs’ of system balancing and stability; develop UK floating wind technology and IP;

increase UK supply content and increase collaboration with the nuclear industry to develop approaches to the Whole Energy System.

- Greater investment in hydrogen projects

Hydrogen can serve as both an energy vector and an energy store and can contribute to industry decarbonisation, domestic heating and transportation.

Net Zero assumes that 30% of the UK’s energy will be delivered through hydrogen (a tenfold increase in production from current values) - 80% of this would have to be produce by Steam Methane Reformation (MR) which greatly increases the risks associated with hydrogen’s role in achieving Net Zero due to the reliance on CCS. The UK must accelerate the current hydrogen research programme and make some critical system decisions.

- An optimal, reliable and balanced system

With high penetration of variable power generation, system balancing depends on firm power, interconnectors, demand-side response and energy storage.

However, there is currently no battery technology capable of grid-scale balancing storage – and there is no such technology on the horizon."

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