UK Review of Renewable Energy finds 30% renewables share by 2030 “appropriate” for the UK; a cautious approach to biofuels in transport
A renewable energy share of around 30% by 2030 would be “appropriate” for the UK, with scope for a higher share (e.g. up to 45%) depending on the extent to which renewable technology costs fall and possible constraints on deployment of low-carbon alternatives, according to the newly released Renewable Energy Review by the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The CCC, an independent body established under the Climate Change Act (2008), advises the UK Government on setting and meeting carbon budgets and on preparing for the impacts of climate change.
Among the review’s conclusions is that a cautious approach to the use of biofuels in surface transport is also appropriate until and unless sustainability concerns are resolved. The review also concludes that nuclear generation in particular appears likely to be the most cost-effective form of low-carbon power generation in the 2020s (i.e. before costs of other technologies have fallen), justifying significant investment if safety concerns can be addressed. Gas CCS may be particularly useful in providing flexible generation.
Our overall conclusion in this review is that there is scope for significant penetration of renewable energy to 2030 (e.g. up to 45%, compared to 3% today). Higher levels subsequently (i.e. to 2050) would be technically feasible. Equally however, it would be possible to decarbonise electricity generation with very significant nuclear deployment and have limited renewables; carbon capture and storage may also emerge as a cost-effective technology.
The optimal policy is to pursue a portfolio approach, with each of the different technologies playing a role. In the case of renewable technologies such as offshore wind and marine, this will require the resolution of current uncertainties and the achievement of cost reductions. Therefore the message in our previous letter is reinforced: new policies are required to support technology innovation and to address barriers to uptake in order to suitably develop renewables as an option for future decarbonisation.—Renewable Energy Review
The review does four things:
Sets out new analysis of technical feasibility and economic viability of renewable and other low-carbon energy technologies.
Presents scenarios for renewable energy deployment to 2030 and beyond, and assesses whether it is appropriate now to commit to increased ambition for renewable energy in the 2020s.
Considers implications of these longer-term scenarios for ambition to 2020.
Assesses the key enabling factors for investment in renewable energy technologies, suggesting high-level policy options as appropriate to deliver ambition in 2020 and beyond.
Renewable transport. The review notes that significant growth in the number of electric vehicles will increase the share of renewable energy in transport, to the extent that batteries are charged by renewable power generation. In the CCC’s fourth budget scenario, electric vehicle penetration reaches around 60% of new cars and vans by 2030.
Although electric vehicles may still account for a considerably smaller share of total miles in 2030, this will increase significantly in the 2030s as the vehicle stock turns over, according to the CCC.
On biofuels, the review cautions that it is currently inappropriate to plan for significantly increased penetration of biofuels in surface transport beyond 2020, given concerns over sustainability (e.g. the tension between biofuels and food production, uncertainties about true lifecycle emissions and biodiversity risks) and competing claims on scarce bioenergy supplies from other sectors (e.g. aviation, industry).
Given a scarce supply of bioenergy, this should be used in sectors where there are limited alternatives for decarbonisation (e.g. aviation, industry) as opposed to surface transport, where decarbonisation through electrification is likely to be technically feasible and economically viable. Specifically, we have accepted the findings of the Gallagher Review, which suggested it would be appropriate to plan for biofuels penetration of around 8% by energy in 2020.—Renewable Energy Review
Under a cautious assumption of 11% (30 TWh) biofuels penetration in 2030, the total renewable transport share—including renewable electricity used in electric vehicles—would be around 15%.
Recommendations. The review also makes the following recommendations:
A flexible approach to ambition for offshore wind generation in 2020 is appropriate. If a set of alternative options can be found to meet the EU renewable energy target, then offshore wind ambition in 2020 could be moderated.
The Green Investment Bank would be more effective if it were able to borrow from its inception.
New commitments on funding for renewable heat investment in the period from 2015 to 2020 and in the 2020s will be required in due course.
Training and accreditation of renewable heat installers should be a priority if supply chain bottlenecks are to be avoided.
Approaches to energy efficiency improvement through the Green Deal and renewable heat deployment through the Renewable Heat Incentive should be integrated. For example, renewable heat should be marketed as part of a whole house approach under the Green Deal, which could also provide finance to cover up-front investment costs.
Pursuing alternatives to decarbonizing transport—electrification and improved efficiency—is an urgent priority.