The UK can achieve its legally-binding targets of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035, and reach net zero by 2050, but only if consumers embrace new ways to use energy, and urgent policy decisions drive immediate energy efficiency measures, according to National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO).
National Grid ESO's latest Future Energy Scenarios (FES) report models different credible pathways for energy in Britain over the coming decades.
In three out of four scenarios in the analysis, the country reaches net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier, with two scenarios seeing Britain reduce its emissions by 2035 by the 78% from 1990 levels committed to in the recent sixth Carbon Budget.
But the report makes clear the level of societal change that will be required to meet the targets, as well as the importance of policy direction around – among other areas – residential heating and support for energy efficiency measures to help reduce overall demands.
Hydrogen plays a central role in all of the net zero scenarios, with electrolysis – converting surplus wind or solar energy into hydrogen – introducing significant flexibility to the electricity network, and hybrid heat pumps and hydrogen boilers replacing natural gas in some scenarios.
National Grid ESO head of strategy and regulation Matthew Wright said: “Our latest Future Energy Scenarios insight reveals a glimpse of a Britain that is powered with net zero carbon emissions, but it also highlights the level of societal change and policy direction that will be needed to get there.
“If Britain is to meet its ambitious emissions reduction targets, consumers will need a greater understanding of how their power use and lifestyle choices impact how sustainable our energy system will be – from how we heat our homes, to when we charge our future cars – and government policy will be key to driving awareness and change.
“Britain is making significant progress towards achieving net zero. The fundamental changes outlined in our latest FES insight show just how important a coordinated approach will be between policymakers and industry if we’re to capitalise on that momentum.”