• New report finds CCS and hydrogen innovation key to meeting UK 2050 net-zero target

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Following last November’s Absolute Zero report by UK FIRES, a new report looking at the achievability of the target has been released by Energy Systems Catapult, a government-funded think tank like UK FIRES. Unlike the UK FIRES report, it finds that innovation in carbon capture and storage with bioenergy as well as hydrogen deployment in the energy sector will be required to meet the goal, along with higher electrification, much higher shares of renewables in the energy mix, and increased use of nuclear energy and forms of energy storage. Reforestation and increased use of biomass crops for energy production would be necessary, as well as a reduction in meat and dairy consumption in the region of 20-50%, depending on the success of other measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the growth rate for aviation would need to be curbed. The Energy Systems Catapult report also differs from the Absolute Zero report in allowing that there would be some greenhouse gas emissions, offset by ‘negative emissions’. To meet the net-zero target before 2050, the UK would have to give up on flying and eating red-meat, something the UK FIRES report assumed would be necessary for the 2050 target. The authors of the Energy Systems Catapult report urge the government to provide policy and regulatory reform in four areas: a) innovation support for nuclear power, CCS and hydrogen; b) economic incentives to shift to low carbon across all sectors of the economy; c) local area energy planning; and d) reform of power markets. That two reports focused on how to achieve the same target released months apart from each other can be so different is an example of the difficulty of prediction, yet policy setting must be done within this uncertainty, and the Energy Systems Catapult report seems the more reasonable one.