Politics

MPs call for decarbonisation of electricity and heating

Gas

A committee of MPs has suggested the government policy of increased use of gas fired power stations will make it hard for the UK to meet carbon reduction targets by 2030.

In a report published today, the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee called for decarbonisation of electricity generation, supporting an emissions target that would rule out large amounts of gas without carbon capture and storage.

They also called for reduced emissions from heating buildings and transport. And they backed recommendations of the government’s climate change advisors for the overall carbon budget for the years 2028-2032.

The committee’s chair, Angus MacNeil MP, said

“Meeting our Climate Change Act targets and commitments made in Paris will require action across the board, but decarbonising our power sector is – along with energy efficiency – the most cost-effective way of reducing our emissions. It will also be vital in reducing emissions from the heat sector and from transport, as we electrify our rail network and road vehicles.”

“The UK can’t afford any further delays when it comes to replacing dirty power stations with cleaner forms of generation. Investors need certainty and setting a decarbonisation target for the electricity sector would signal the Government’s commitment to phasing out fossil fuels.”

The committee report was responding to advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) for the 5th carbon budget.

It approved the CCC’s proposed budget of 1,765MtCo2e, which would limit annual emissions to an average of 57% below 1990 levels. The Climate Change Act commits the UK to reducing emissions by at least 80% by 2050. The government is required to agree the 5th budget by the end of June.

The MPs also backed the CCC’s proposals for a carbon intensity target for the electricity generation sector. This caps the volume of carbon produced for a unit of electricity. The CCC has recommended a target of 100g of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour (C02 per kWh) for 2030.

The MPs heard evidence that emissions from modern combined cycle gas turbine power stations was estimated at around 360g CO2/kWh. Their report said:

“One of the Government’s current policies is to develop new gas-fired generation assets. However, this drive, coupled with a lack of a firm framework for fitting these new power stations with CCS [carbon capture and storage] to mitigate their emissions, could make meeting a power sector carbon intensity target challenging.”

The report concluded:

“Given the importance of the power sector, not least as electrification of other sectors such as heat and transport becomes more prominent, it is crucial that clear decarbonisation signals are in place. We recommend that the Government set a carbon intensity target of 100 gCO2 /kWh for 2030, in line with the advice from the CCC.”

The MPs said meeting the 5th carbon budget would require effort not just in power generation but also in energy intensive industries, heat, transport, buildings and agriculture. But they said:

“We can see no basis for downgrading the UK’s ambition to reduce emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases. Indeed, to meet targets agreed at the Paris climate talks to keep temperature rises below 1.5 degrees, we may in the future need to cut emissions deeper and faster.”

On heating homes and businesses, the MPs said low-carbon technology, such as heat pumps and heating networks, were a priority. Policies to drive the take up of energy efficiency measures would also be crucial, they said.

Responding to the report, Friends of the Earth said today:

“A major overhaul of government climate strategy is urgently required. There is a big gap between ministers’ aims for cutting carbon emissions, and the policies they are carrying out, and this was true even before the Paris Agreement.

“If we want to decarbonise the UK economy, the Government must stop championing the interests of dirty gas and oil, and end its attacks on clean solutions like wind and solar power.”

Link to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee report

14 replies »

  1. It is a good intention by CCC but in reality, dream on. It is almost impossible to do so with current economic environment and renewable technology.

  2. This shows the reality of climate change and the challenges we face. And I disagree with people that say it cannot be done – it may take a couple of decades to be carbon zero but it can and must be done. And what is more the change has to be happening now and year on year these changes will take place. There is world wide commitment to reducing fossil fuel use now – post COP21.

    There is no room for complacency to “dream on”. Significant investment needs to be made and there needs to be a political will. As the world moves in this direction government and industry will have no choice because the markets will demand change as investors move funds away from fossil fuels to invest in newer, cleaner energy solutions and industries. This may include more nuclear power and our government needs to get its act together on their nuclear strategy as well.

    One thing for sure fracking is not the solution, as the time scales are way out and because of the impact on climate change and particularly in respect of further new reserves of hydrocarbons being mined. Mr Hollinrake’s idea that extending and increasing dependency on gas use and using gas for another 40 years, whilst still professing to be concerned about climate change do not stand up to scrutiny. As John Ashton said you cannot support both fracking and climate change, if you do you are either deceiving yourself or others.

    This government has been irresponsible and incompetent in terms of an energy strategy and has been blinded by its obsession with fracking.

  3. As most of you will know I do not agree that we can be “carbon zero” in a “couple of decades” and that we will still be heavily dependent on gas for electricity, never mind heating and cars, because no no nuclear will be forthcoming and renewables can not do it yet. The dream of course is 100% renewables. Germany is often quoted as the lead example due to its huge deployment of wind and solar plus biomass. Worth having a closer look at these reports from Germany for 2014:

    https://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/downloads-englisch/pdf-files-englisch/data-nivc-/electricity-production-from-solar-and-wind-in-germany-2014.pdf

    http://www.vernunftkraft.de/85-prozent-fehlzeit-windkraftanlagen-sind-faulpelze/

    Unfortuantely the second report is in German however it is easy to see that in 2014 the Load Factor (efficiency total produced divided by installed capacity for the year) is less than 15%. This is incredibly low!

    The first linked report page 22 Monthly production summarises the sources of electricity production in Germany for 2014. You can form your own opinion about Germany’s decarbonisation of electricity.

    Slide on page 6 is a good summary for the first 11months – 250 TWhrs from coal and gas, 140 TWhrs from renewables. The big difference to the UK is that Germany uses a huge amount of coal including the dirty brown stuff and a small amount of gas whereas we are phasing out coal and replacing it with gas.

    All those who keep telling me that we can go 100% renewables soon please read the links, at least the one in English. I will try and find the 2015 one when it comes out, it will be interesting to see if there are any significant changes.

  4. John – Denmark is the other example quoted as best practice. The electricity production from renewables is high as a %. However it is also expensive. Excess wind power is exported when it is windy, I understand often to Norway at low cost to the Norwegians. Some or all of this is used for pumped hydro storage. In effect, a battery. When it is not windy this is produced and sold back to the Danes at a higher price. Hence contributing to the very high electricity costs in Denmark. And they are prepared to pay it would seem.

    However even their Government is realising that their targets for total energy from renewables, not just electricity, are not achievable. In fact they appear to be back peddling on the electricity sector as well. The forecast to 2024 shows power station supply (mainly coal now I think) remaining the same with wind increasing. This is due to the back up requirements? One thing they are planning on doing is converting coal to biomass aka Drax. And what a disaster this is turning out to be.

    http://www.energinet.dk/EN/KLIMA-OG-MILJOE/Miljoerapportering/Elproduktion-i-Danmark/Sider/Elproduktion-i-Danmark.aspx

    Also worth looking at:

    http://www.worldwatch-europe.org/node/304

    To get a feel for TOTAL energy consumption and why we are a million miles away from 100% renewables.

    • The levelised cost of electrical generation (true cost) in 2015 from various sources can be found at

      http://about.bnef.com/press-releases/wind-solar-boost-cost-competitiveness-versus-fossil-fuels/
      Uk CCG at £78 per Mwh
      Uk onshore wind £58 per Mwh
      Global offshore wind £119 per Mwh
      So onshore wind is the cheapest and Global offshore the dearest.

      However world leaders in offshore wind,Dong Energy,state they will have UK offshore wind down to £77 from 2020 instalations.
      http://www.dongenergy.co.uk/uk-business-activities/wind-power/partners/cost-of-energy

      Then there is the very relevant fact that shale gas is twice the price of our own North sea gas and thirty percent dearer than imported LNG.
      By 2023 all wind will be cheaper than CCG unless you find cheaper gas to burn than we have at present. Burning UK shale gas would put CCG way over wind costs
      100% renewables would be totally unrealistic (and not work) but rapid increase of renewables now would be the most logical and cost effective decision. This would then make our own home grown North sea gas last longer. A win win scenario.

      • John, the numbers do not make sense. UK wholesale electricity prices are around £40 / mwhr. How does everything cost more than this? Currently 50% is gas generated so gas is much cheaper than this as the renewables currently on line are double for onshore and triple for offshore wind due to the RO system of subsidy. Which fit roughly with bloomberg. What bloomberg don’t include is the cost of the standby back up which in UK is gas. UK onshore wind runs at LF <30%. But for many days in the year much lower than this so a lot of gas is used. I still don't see how the cost of UK shale gas can be calculated when there isn't any yet? US shale gas has driven global prices down and even stopped several LNG project recently. Onshore wind without subsidy has stopped new onshore wind farms with the low wholesale prices driven by gas.

      • Makes sense, leave the dearest gas to last. Only produce it if / when you need it and other cheaper sources have been depleted. But no one, including Centrica, knows yet the cost of UK shale gas. That is why a few wells need to be drilled and tested to establish reserves and economics. No doubt KM-8 will have it’s own economics if the gas is to be used for the Barclays Bank gas turbine to generate electricity local to the well? And Cuadrilla’s reserves are potentially huge as the shale is apparently quite sandy – you can see this in the Bowland Shale outcrops up at Rams Clough / Whins Brow in the Forest of Bowland. Less shale / more sand = greater productivity (and lower well density). In summary I agree with you, we need a lot more gas going forward. You are sure that UK offshore / imports are lower cost than onshore UK shale gas – I don’t think we know this yet.

  5. I think it is negligent if we continue with the current energy policies and I do hope that Paul T is wrong in terms of time scale, because where does that leave future generations? The government energy strategy and procurement of the new Hinckley Point reactor is a shambles.

    I had a look on the site Paul sent a link to and there were some interesting articles and I found this

    http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6039

    Reading what Sweden is doing and has achieved just reinforces that fact we need investment and strong political will but sadly at the moment I fear we have neither. We need to be taking action and making significant changes now. And clearly reliance on gas and fracking is not the solution. Gas has a part to play but only as a transitional fuel without CCS. Beyond 2030 gas is a problem without CCS.

    I still believe and hope this can be achieved and I have heard several experts say it can within a 20 to 25 year time frame. We must do for the sake of future generations.

    • KT, Sweden is a good example of what to aspire to. However there are some significant differences between our two countries which impact on this:

      Population – Sweden 10mm, UK 64mm
      Forested Area – Sweden 69%, UK 13%
      Electricty generation – Sweden 90% nuclear & hydro, UK @ 1816pm today – 19% nuclear & hydro, 4% wind, 5% biomass, 14% coal AND a whopping 54% GAS (maybe the rest – 4% – from solar or France)
      Number of vehicles on road – Sweden 6 million, UK 35 million

      The town in Sweden wants to use up to 85% ethanol from Brazil? What happens if all of Sweden drives on 85% Brazillian ethanol – or all of Europe? Even greater deforestation and greater land take from food production.

      The numbers don’t add up. It is not possible to upscale what a small village may aspire to as the resources are not available.

      I am interested to read how the “several experts say it can within a 20 to 25 year time frame” propose we eliminate our need for gas by 2035 – 2040 . This is made even more difficult with the global population rising exponentially, developing middle classes in what were classed as third world countries, who aspire to better standards of living including owning motor bikes and cars, and feeding all these people. I have personally witnessed this when living in Ho Chi Min City for several years – bicycles, to motor bikes and now to cars as the economy has grown. And not enough electricity to go round….

  6. Health Effects for People Living Near Gas Wells
    from Dr Anne Epstein, Lubbock TX http://tinyurl.com/HealthFracked

    Newborn babies in areas near a high density of gas wells showed a 30% greater prevalence of congenital heart defects compared to newborns from areas having no gas wells within a 10-mile radius.
    Congenital heart defects in newborns usually require surgery
    http://tinyurl.com/HealthFracked_NIEHS

    Babies in the highest quartile of exposure (avg 124 gas wells/ 20 km) had a 40 % increased risk of premature birth compared to babies in the lowest quartile of exposure (avg 6 gas wells/ 20 km). http://journals.lww.com/epidem/_layouts/15/oaks.journals.mobile/articleviewer.aspx?year=2016&issue=03000&article=00002

    Unconventional Gas and Oil Drilling is Associated with Increased Hospital Utilization Rates
    Examined 95,000 hospitalization records from 3 rural counties in PA 2007-2011
    People in zip codes with a higher number or density of wells had significantly more total hospitalizations
    Hospitalizations for neurological disease (stroke, Parkinson’s) were higher than zip codes without wells
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26176544

    • SmokyJoe: Another report, perhaps more reliable as it is based on workers in the offshore industry in Norway. Note that most if not all of the pleural cancer in men is related to asbestos exposure and not oil and or gas production operations. This dropped off after asbestos was removed.

      http://occmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/64/7/539.full

      Key points

      The overall numbers of cancers in Norwegian offshore workers were close to those expected from population background rates.

      In women, a significantly increased risk of acute myeloid leukaemia was found but based on five cases only. In men, a significant excess of pleural cancer was observed.

      Further clarification of the possible role of offshore work in cancer aetiology requires information on exposure and potential confounders.

      There is no HVHF offshore Norway, only HF with sand or acid but the production rates / exposure on confined platforms are significantly higher for these offshore installations than any shale gas well pads and the surrounding countryside.

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