Renewables can meet UK’s electricity needs, says new report

Existing clean energy is able to provide for all of the UK’s electricity needs year-round, according to research from the Centre of Alternative Technology.

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Using data-driven “scenarios” to map out the ways in which greenhouse gas emission can be reduced, a new report from the Centre of Alternative Technology (CAT) shows the UK is able to provide a 100 per cent “reliable energy supply” from clean energy sources and “flexible” carbon neutral back-ups.

In the centre's largest study yet, CAT assessed progress towards the goals set out in the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement with more than 130 hypothetical global scenarios using net zero, deep decarbonisation and renewable energy modelling. In many of the scenarios outlined by CAT, switching to 100 per cent renewable energy is cheaper than a “business as usual” approach.

“These scenarios are increasingly based on hourly modelling, including for developing countries, which means we can show that green energy supplies can meet demand 24 hours a day and across the seasons,” said Paul Allen, Zero Carbon project coordinator at CAT. “Through demonstrating the potential of intelligent, mixed supply systems we can show that renewables deliver whatever the weather.”

The results come at a time when the UK is progressing on targets to remove fossil fuels from its energy mix. Coal-fired electricity production supplied just one per cent of Britain’s electricity this summer, and the government aims to phase out its use altogether by 2025.

The report also notes a series of “key challenges” for current global progress. Although demonstrating “great potential”, the report notes that many countries have not prepared scenarios that align short and long-term actions with the goals set out by the Paris Agreement. Of the 199 countries surveyed, it found that just 32 (16 per cent) had developed deep decarbonisation, 100 per cent renewable energy or net zero scenarios.

For countries to deliver on the Paris Agreement, CAT advises that forward-planning needs to go beyond 100 per cent renewable electricity to incorporate emissions from other sectors. Modelling from across transport, buildings, industry and agriculture needs to be integrated into carbon scenarios and aligned with industrial strategies, the report claims.

“Tackling climate change and creating a fairer future for everyone is no longer a technological challenge, it’s a challenge of will, of ambition, and of vision,” added Allen. “Whilst there are clear challenges, there are also huge multi-solving opportunities for adaptation, resilience, employment, heath, wellbeing, economics and natural systems.”