U.K. renewable energy

A rainbow illuminates the sky above a windfarm in Wortley, near Sheffield, northern England, on March 1, 2016.

(Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

UK Report Shows Promise of 100% Clean Energy—Without Nuclear Power—by 2050

"All public and enforced consumer spending on new nuclear power and carbon capture and storage should be scrapped and instead funding should be put into renewable energy, energy efficiency, and storage capacity," said one expert.

A best-case scenario in which the United Kingdom fully transitions to renewable energy with no nuclear generation would save more than £100 billion—over $124 billion—toward achieving net-zero by 2050 and produce 20% fewer carbon emissions, an analysis published this week concludes.

The report—entitled 100% Renewable Energy for the United Kingdom—was authored by Philipp Diesing, Dmitrii Bogdanov, Rasul Satymov, Michael Child, and Christian Breyer of LUT University in Lappeenranta, Finland. The publication compares a set of potential scenarios with the U.K. government's current net-zero pathway, which includes nuclear power and fossil fuel carbon capture and storage. The report was released ahead of a Saturday seminar hosted in London and online by 100% Renewable U.K.

"While the effects of the climate emergency can be observed more and more clearly through increasingly frequent extreme weather events and other climate change impacts, there is still a lack of dedicated countermeasures by decision-makers," a summary of the report states. "The government of the United Kingdom... has self-committed to climate neutrality in 2050, but without initiating the essential steps and without eliminating fossil fuel-based technologies and high-risk nuclear power."

"The U.K. does, however, benefit from the availability of renewable energy resources, namely onshore and offshore wind, which are considered the best in Europe," the publication continues. "Based on this background, this study presents several energy system transition pathways to 100% renewable energy in 2050 in high-spatial and temporal resolution, by describing the energy system of the U.K. in full detail from the starting point of today in five-year time steps until 2050."

The study's authors modeled four scenarios:

  • The "Best Policy Scenario" (BPS) shows a 100% renewable energy system by 2050, with offshore wind as the main resource, limiting onshore wind and solar photovoltaics according to available land area;
  • The "Inter-Annual Storage Scenario" adds to the BPS the required inter-annual storage needed to provide good levels of insurance against the possibilities of low-wind years;
  • The "BPS Plus Scenario" tested the limits of higher land area availability for onshore wind and solar photovoltaics, and includes some renewable electricity-based e-fuel imports; and
  • The "Current Policy Scenario" adopts the U.K. government's strategy for net-zero as published in 2020.
"The benefits of a fully renewable energy system in achieving net-zero are clear," 100% Renewable U.K. director David Toke, who supervised the new report, said in a statement. "Far from simply keeping the lights on, they ensure secure and reliable energy for the U.K., with huge economic savings compared to other options and incredible job creation opportunities."

"The implications of this report are huge," he added. "All public and enforced consumer spending on new nuclear power and carbon capture and storage should be scrapped and instead funding should be put into renewable energy, energy efficiency, and storage capacity."

The new report comes as Extinction Rebellion U.K. and dozens of other groups prepare for a four-day demonstration in London beginning Friday to demand an end to new fossil fuel projects and citizens' assemblies to discuss solutions to the climate emergency.

It also comes as ministers in the Conservative government of U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are considering a revamp of the bidding process for new renewables projects in an effort to create more green jobs. Opportunities in the low-carbon job sector have shrunk significantly since then-U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, also a Conservative, eliminated what he reportedly called "green crap" policies in 2012.

Like the United States and other nations, the U.K. continues to develop fossil fuel projects despite the climate emergency. Climate campaigners warn that the country's entire carbon budget could be blown on just one oil and gas project: Rosebank, the North Sea's largest undeveloped oilfield, has the estimated potential to produce half a billion total barrels of oil.

Earlier this week, Germany drew applause—and some criticism—from climate campaigners as its last three nuclear power plants were permanently shut down.

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