Here’s how the UK can get reliable zero-carbon electricity by 2035
The UK government is aiming to “fully decarbonise” Great Britain’s electricity system by 2035. This target was recommended by the CCC in 2020. It was then adopted by the government in its 2021 net-zero strategy and reiterated in the 2022 energy security strategy. The report on March 9, 2023 stresses how important it will be to meet the 2035 target. It says this will be “the central requirement for achieving net-zero [by 2050]”. Moreover, it says that “reliable, resilient and plentiful decarbonised electricity – at an affordable price to consumers…is within sight”. The report sets out what a decarbonised electricity system might look like in 2035, how it would maintain security of supply, and what would be needed to bring it about. The starting point for the analysis is that electricity demand will rise to 50% above pre-Covid levels by 2035 and 100% by 2050, as shown in the figure below. Buildings (red), transport (purple) and industry (orange) will increasingly run on electricity, rather than fossil fuels. (This assumption is based on the CCC’s “balanced pathway” to meeting the sixth carbon budget, the UK’s legally binding limit on emissions during 2028-2032.) The CCC, therefore, sees nuclear and BECCS generating another 20% of electricity in 2035. However, these technologies are “relatively inflexible” – for practical and economic reasons – meaning they are not suited to balancing variable output from wind and solar.