What will it take to decarbonise the UK?

Just what volume of energy generation will it take to decarbonise the UK? One of my favourite, jaw-dropping pieces of analysis on this is by the Royal Academy of Engineering, who published a report Generating the Future (2010) setting out just how much new low carbon electricity generation would be required for the UK to meet its legally binding climate targets to cut carbon by 80% by 2050.

The results are staggering. The shopping list includes: 38 London Array wind farms, 10,000 2.5MW onshore wind farms, the Severn Barrage, 25GW of biomass, oh, and 40 new nuclear power plants.

The Academy do not mince their words, saying: “Fundamental restructuring of the UK’s entire energy system is unavoidable if it is to meet future energy demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, even assuming that energy demand in all sectors can be substantially reduced.”

“If we are to achieve this, the scale of the undertaking will require the biggest peacetime programme of investment and social change the UK has ever seen.”

It is possible to achieve a non-nuclear scenario, for example, using the DECC energy pathfinder: http://my2050.decc.gov.uk/ but this requires significant compromises, in terms of environmental impact (cover 75% of land in energy crops, anyone?) cost, economic competitiveness, lifestyle changes, or environmental impact, which may not be acceptable to the public.

As Mark Lynas details in his e-book Nuclear 2.0 Why Nuclear a Green Future Needs Nuclear Power, environmentalists are increasingly realising nuclear is essential.


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