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The UK’s 2035 net zero electricity target: how could it be achieved?

electricity

The UK’s 2035 net zero electricity target: how could it be achieved?

As Boris Johnson confirmed plans to decarbonise the electricity grid by 2035, the UK was sourcing almost 40% of its power from fossil fuels, underscoring the scale of the challenge ahead.

The government’s target, announced on Monday with less than a month until the start of the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow, is a key component of its pledge to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

That broader effort will probably involve much more widespread use of electric vehicles, and electric heat pumps in the home, meaning the UK must generate much more power but with far lower emissions. The challenges involved are monumental.

How much electricity do we use?

Demand was just under 35 gigawatts (GW) on Monday but that can rise to about 58GW at peak, on cold winter days. Expressed over the course of a year, the UK used about 330 terawatt hours last year, 5% down on 2019, when the coronavirus pandemic dampened demand. By 2035, demand is projected to reach 460 terawatt hours, an increase of almost 40%.

How green is our electricity now?

Last year, wind and solar produced a record proportion of UK electricity, at 43%, eclipsing fossil fuels, at 40%, for the first time. The rest was largely supplied by nuclear power and imports through subsea interconnector cables. Easter Monday this year was the UK grid’s greenest day ever, with low carbon sources hitting almost 80%, thanks to sunny spells, blustery winds and low holiday demand.

But when conditions are not ideal, it is invariably gas that picks up the slack. Gas emits significantly less carbon than coal, which has been almost eliminated from the UK power mix and should be gone altogether by 2024, but meeting climate pledges means massively reducing gas usage.

What needs to happen?

The Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent body launched in 2008, estimates that the carbon intensity of electricity generation needs to fall significantly on the road to net zero. The amount of CO2 emitted per kilowatt hour would have to fall from 220g in 2019 to 10g in 2035.

After crunching the numbers, the energy advisory firm Cornwall Insight believes this requires a massive ramp-up of wind and solar to meet up to 86% of electricity demand inside 15 years.

This would require offshore wind capacity more than quadrupling from 10GW to 44GW, while onshore wind rises by 14GW to between 30GW and 44GW. Solar would need to increase significantly, too, from 15GW to between 22GW and 30GW.

Would that do the job?

Not even close. Renewables need reliable backup because of their volatility. Cornwall Insight’s projection adds in 15GW of capacity supplied by interconnectors, 5GW of nuclear power and a further 16GW of gas or biomass plants that use carbon capture and storage technology to reduce CO2 emissions drastically.

The CCC’s projections include gas plants being converted to run on hydrogen and meeting about 5% of demand.

What about storage?

Storage is absolutely key, to ensure surplus renewable energy can be saved up on sunny, windy days for release when conditions are less favourable. The CCC’s plan, the “balanced pathway” to net zero, envisages a wind and solar-dominated grid backed up by 18GW of battery storage capacity by 2035. Battery capacity is at just 1.3GW now, although 20GW of projects are in the works.

Hydrogen storage is another option, using electrolysis to extract “green hydrogen” from water, which can be kept for long periods of time and then burnt to regenerate the electricity or used to replace fossil fuels in applications such as transport.

This is not to be confused with pumped hydro storage using water, which involves pumping water uphill and then using the downhill flow to generate electricity.

One hope is that electric vehicles can be used as batteries to store electricity and release it as needed, when the cars are not in use. But local and national power grids need to be smarter to make that work, while a surge in the number of EVs also creates extra overall power demand.

How much will this cost?

Cornwall Insight estimates that investment of up to £200bn will be required to bring online the wind, solar and battery power needed for a renewable-powered UK. The CCC says investment must reach £50bn a year by 2030.

Still though, no more gas?

Not quite. The conventional wisdom is that some level of gas capacity needs to remain on the system, even if it barely contributes more than a few hours of supply here and there. The idea is that it stands ready to provide quick bursts of power when required, at short notice.

What about nuclear?

A crane moves building materials into the circular reinforced concrete and steel home of a reactor at Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset.

Nuclear power plants cost a lot, take years to build and have many vehement opponents, who say they simply do not count as green energy. However, they are capable of generating a large amount of electricity without carbon emissions.

The big problem is that most nuclear reactors are scheduled for retirement soon. The current fleet offers capacity of about 8.9GW, satisfying about a sixth of UK demand. But more than half of that is due to come offline by the end of 2024 alone, starting with Hunterston B later this year. Assuming there are no further delays, the new Hinkley Point C reactors do not fire up until 2026 and 2027.

The picture has been complicated by reports that the UK government is looking to eject China from nuclear projects. Nuclear enthusiasts hope the 2035 target signals strong backing for EDF’s Sizewell C, in Suffolk, as well as Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey, which has struggled to get going amid investors’ funding concerns. Throw in plans by Rolls-Royce for small modular reactors, colloquially known as mini nukes, and capacity could reach 15GW by 2035.

The gamechanger for nuclear could be something called regulated asset base financing, which the government is exploring. That should offer guaranteed returns for investors, attracting much-needed additional backing.

Is the 2035 target doable?

From a technical perspective, yes, but there are significant policy hurdles to overcome. Energy industry lobbyists point to slow planning consent, infrequent windfarm auctions and insufficient grid infrastructure. Many experts believe the energy market needs to be totally redesigned to adapt to changing needs, potentially overseen by a new body.

Helping consumers reduce demand is also important. Energy suppliers have a role to play there but are under increasing pressure because of the surge in gas prices that has resulted in 12 failing this year, with more expected to follow.

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Environment

F.G’s Dangote Flood Committee Shares N1.5b Relief Materials To Flood Victims

The Dangote-led Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation (PCFRR), known as Dangote Flood Committee has distributed N1.5 billion relief materials to victims of flooding nationwide.

The PCFRR, which was established by the Federal Government following the 2012 flooding, is co-chaired by Africa’s foremost industrialist Aliko Dangote and Dr. Olisa Agbakoba.

The flagging off ceremony for the relief materials distribution for this year started in Borno State and was conducted by the State Governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum Tuesday in Maiduguri, Borno State capital. The Governor thanked the Dangote Flood Committee and promised that he will ensure that the items get to the victims.

UNICEF revealed that the 2022 flood killed 600 people, displaced 1.3 million and destroyed more than 82,000 homes in Nigeria, therefore making it the worst in decades.

The representative of the committee, Alhaji Umar Musa Gulani, assured at the flagging off for the Northeast zone that the exercise would also be conducted in the other five geopolitical zones of the country.

Gulani said the items from the committee have been officially handed over to the Borno State Government and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). He said the exercise would be conducted across the six geo-political zones, beginning from the northeastern State of Borno.

The breakdown of items donated includes 86 bags of rice, 34 bags of beans, 34 bags of maize, 34 bags of millet, 34 bags of Guinea Corn, 34 bags of Garri, 86 cartons of noodles, 86 cartons of spaghetti, 86 cartons of macaroni and 86 bags of sugar, and 857 bags of cement, among several food and non-food items.

Gulani said over N10 billion has been expended by the committee to mitigate the effect of flooding since inception in 2012, adding that no fewer than 84 Hostels have been built for flood victims in 24 states of Nigeria. According to him: “This private sector led project is highly commendable and it has been sustained in the past ten years. It is a selfless service from the private sector and Nigerians should appreciate their selfless service to humanity”.

Director General of NEMA Alhaji Mustapha Habib Ahmed described the Committee’s intervention as a milestone for Nigeria in general, and flood victims in particular. “Responding to the humanitarian outcomes of this nature requires concerted effort,” the DG said, and added that the donation by the Dangote Flood Committee would eventually be made available to flood victims across the affected states in Nigeria.

Speaking on behalf of the victims, Khalifa El-Miskin said the victims were extremely appreciative of the gesture.

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Environment

600 Persons Killed, 1.3m Displaced By Floods – UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund has said at least that 600 persons died and 1.3 million others rendered homeless by floods.

This was disclosed by the Chief of UNICEF Field Office, Enugu, Juliet Chiluwe, on Saturday, during an official handover of supplies for Anambra State Flood Response from UNICEF to Anambra State Government

Ms Chiluwe said the figure was obtained according to government data available it received.

During the visit by the UNICEF, the first set of supplies of 100 drums of chlorine for disinfection of water sources, 40 cartons of Aquatabs for household water treatment and 320 cartons of Ready to Use Therapeutic food were handed over to the state governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who was represented by his deputy, Onyekachukwu Ibezim.

The UNICEF official said, “We acknowledged that since September 2022, the worst floods in a decade affected 2.8 million people, of which an estimated 60 per cent are children, across 34 of the 36 states in Nigeria. Of those affected, 1.3 million people have been displaced, and over 600 people have died in relation to flooding according to government data.

“Continuous heavy rains have collapsed hundreds of public health facilities, water systems and sanitation facilities, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases, such as cholera, diarrhoea, and malaria.

“To contribute to the effort of government and other development partners, UNICEF, with funding the Central Emergency Response Fund, has initiated a multisectoral response comprising Health, Child Protection and WASH sectors, to mitigate the impact of the floods support the early recovery-phase of the affected population in Anambra State.“

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Environment

Dantata, Rabiu, Others Gift Jigawa Flood Victims N1b

Nigerian businessman and philanthropist, Alhaji Aminu Dantata, and Abdulsamad Rabiu, the founder of BUA group, on Saturday raised over N1 billion for Jigawa flood victims.

The donations were made in Dutse at the fund raising in support of the 2022 flood victims in the state.

Dantata and Rabiu each donated N200 million, Jigawa State Government N250 million, Gov. Muhammad Badaru, donated N25 million on behalf of himself, family and his company, Talamis Group.

However, Dantata, who was represented by Alhaji Salisu Sambajo, expressed concern over the conditions in which the flood victims found themselves after the disaster.

The philanthropist prayed for those who died during the disaster and sympathised with those who lost their property and crops in the floods.

Similarly, Badaru also expressed appreciation to the teeming donors for their kind gesture and urged the fund raising committee to be equitable and just in the distribution of the palliatives and cash.

The committee Chairman, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu, (Wazirin Dutse) and former Minister of Power, thanked individuals and group of companies for supporting the victims.

Other donors included the members of the state and National Assembly as well as Council Chairmen.

Zenith Bank, Jaiz Bank, FCMB, Sterling Bank, GTBANK and Unity Bank were among the financial institutions who made donations.

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