UK energy systems fit for 2050

The Climate Change Act, that became law on 26 November 2008, has committed the UK to at least 80% reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

While there is a wealth of reports and studies on future energy systems and technologies, there is no clear and realistic overall picture of how these targets might be achieved and what such an energy system might look like. This report, produced by a working group of Fellows of The Royal Academy of Engineering, considers possible energy scenarios that could meet the 2050 emissions reduction target. Four scenarios are explored. They describe the whole energy system in broad brush strokes and are illustrative rather than prescriptive, identifying the principal components of the system and contributing towards a better systems level understanding of the most salient issues.

Scenarios never predict the future; they only show a range of possible futures. However, some fundamental characteristics of all the possible energy futures for the UK can be deduced and these are described below.

The study shows that:

  • There is no single ‘silver bullet’ that will achieve the required 80% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Fundamental restructuring of the whole of the UK’s energy system will be unavoidable.
  • Demand reductions across all sectors of the economy will be essential through a combination of increased efficiencies and behavioural change.
  • The full suite of low-carbon energy supply technologies already available (or identified as credible) will be needed, including nuclear, renewables and carbon capture and storage brought together in a balanced way.
  • The scale of the engineering challenge is massive.

You can read the study from the Royal Academy of Engineering here.