Energy management key to UK carbon plan

2nd December 2011

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Greater resource and energy efficiency across industry, the public sector and homes, will be key in ensuring the UK meets its legally-binding carbon reduction targets, according to the government.

Its first carbon plan forecasts that the UK will surpass its commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 on 1990 levels, but says energy efficiency will have to increase dramatically across all sectors if the country is to meet the goal of an 80% cut by 2050.

In publishing the plan, energy secretary Chris Huhne said it proved the UK’s ambitious targets were both achievable and desirable.

“Every bit of progress we make is one more step away from import dependency, away from price volatility and from the emissions that threaten our way of life,” he said. “Our national economic interest is to be found in a cost-effective transition to low carbon, to an economy that is more resilient, innovative and efficient.”

In the 220-page plan, the government outlines how its planned policies will enable the transition to a low-carbon economy over the coming decades. According to the report, the next decade will be spent making easy, energy-efficiency wins, such as using the Green Deal to improve insulation in the housing stock, while the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency scheme will encourage industry to reduce its energy use.

The 2020s will see the deployment of low-carbon technology to decarbonise the electricity supply, with the government predicting at least three new nuclear power stations and a fivefold increase by 2030 in the amount renewable energy generation. It also predicts that carbon capture and storage (CSS) schemes could decarbonise a further 10GW of electricity generated by gas or oil-fired plants.

The plan also outlines how the government envisions carbon reduction across a number of sectors, including transport, industry, agriculture and waste, highlighting where its policies will help to incentivise or require emissions reductions.

Meeting the 2050 targets will require industry to cut its emissions by up to 70%, says the plan, The government suggests these cuts can be met through a combination of greater energy efficiency, swapping fossil fuels with biomas, biogas or electricity, and by greater use of CCS technology – which it estimates could capture a third of emissions by 2050.

The plan has been welcomed by business leaders and environmental groups as a clear signal of the UK’s intent moving forward.

The CBI’s head of energy and climate change, Matthew Brown, said: “The government’s revised plan gives investors a clearer picture of how we will transition to a low-carbon economy. We now need this to be backed by consistent, long-term policies, avoiding any sudden changes of direction which put investors off.”

Meanwhile, Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK said: “It’s by having a coherent energy policy that places equal importance on improving investment certainty for the renewables industry and on incentivising energy efficiency measures, that the UK will make a successful, sustainable and affordable transition towards a low-carbon power sector.”

EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said the plan was a step forward in recognising the efforts industry has made in lowering emissions and particularly welcomed the recognition of targets based on reducing energy intensity rather than absolute emissions for these industries.

However, Gareth Stace, EEF’s head of climate and environment, said the plans revealed a mismatch between government ambitions on industrial CCS and available financial support.

“Without funding now there is a risk the UK will lose the race to be a world leader in the development of CCS for both industrial and energy generation applications,” he said.

Stace’s comments were echoed by the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) which said the plan lacked ambition and could damage the sector’s future by underestimating its potential.

“To meet UK emissions targets by 2030, the country need two to three times more CCS in operation than predicted by the government,” said Jeff Chapman, chief executive of the CCSA. “Without a clear pathway for CCS in the carbon plan, the UK will struggle to meet its longer term carbon emissions targets.”

An online calculator, which allows individuals to compare the differing costs of potential future energy systems, accompanies the plan The calculator reveals that meeting the UK’s 80% carbon reduction target is likely to cost the same as taking no action to reduce emissions.


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