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‘Immediate action’ required for Britain to hit net-zero carbon by 2050, UK report says

By Emma Bowden, PA

Immediate action is required for Britain to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to a report by the country’s electricity system operator.

Three out of four scenarios modelled by the UK's National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) show the country reaching the target by 2050 or earlier.

But the UK's Future Energy Scenarios (FES) report found doing so requires immediate action across all key technologies and policy areas, with fundamental changes for consumers, particularly in transport, heating and energy efficiency.

National Grid ESO predicts that the Covid-19 pandemic will have an impact on the future of energy, but said the extent of the crisis became apparent too late to be factored in to the analysis.

Based on input from over 600 experts, the report looks at the future of energy in Britain across electricity and gas, outlining four different pathways spanning the next 30 years.

The scenario with the highest level of consumer engagement, which sees the target achieved by 2048, estimates 11 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2030 – and over 30 million by 2040.

It says that by 2050, up to 80% of households with an electric vehicle will be “smart charging” their car, plugging in outside of the evening peak when energy is cheaper and demand on the grid is lower.

With regards to energy use within households, analysis suggests the year 2050 could see homes no longer using natural gas boilers, using 20 million heat pumps instead.

The report says that while reaching net-zero carbon emissions is achievable, cross-sector regulations and services are needed to “simplify” the changes that consumers need to make, while “significant investment” is required in low-carbon electricity generation.

Mark Herring, head of strategy, said: “Across all scenarios, we see growth in renewable energy generation, including significant expansion in installed offshore wind capacity.

“There is widespread uptake in domestic electric vehicles, and growth and investment in hydrogen and carbon capture technologies too.

“Our new analysis of the level of societal change needed to achieve net zero also shows that consumers need greater understanding of how their energy use impacts the wider system, and how changes to their lifestyle have an impact on net-zero ambitions.”