Lessons from UK’s green effort can guide global decarbonisation efforts

The UK’s decarbonisation success could provide the blueprint to lower global carbon emissions and drive climate action, according to a new report released by SSE and KPMG

Festival Net Zero 2021

The UK has reduced climate emissions faster than any other country in the world and will host world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow in November to agree a plan to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees.

Published by SSE and KPMG on 7 June, the Hindsight is 2050 Vision report examines the UK’s decarbonisation journey and identifies five key principles that can help countries across the globe propel decarbonisation and step up the fight against climate change.

The five principles are:

  1. Setting binding, long-term targets backed by robust institutional structures to give investor confidence. The UK’s Climate Change Act and five-year Carbon Budgets have provided an effective governance framework and ensured public accountability.
  2. Balancing the energy trilemma of decarbonisation, affordability and reliability to retain a public mandate for decarbonisation.  Without policies in place to keep the lights on and without consideration of the cost and impact of the transition, it cannot succeed.
  3. Countries should decarbonise the power sector first to unlock electrification of other sectors of the economy.  Once the majority of electricity comes from clean sources, it provides a powerful tool with which to help decarbonise other sectors of the economy, such as transport, heat and industry.
  4. Incentivise lowest cost investment in low-carbon solutions.  Putting a clear price on carbon and a visible trajectory is the simplest way to incentivise the lowest-cost options, while stable, long-term policy and regulatory frameworks encourage investment by reducing risk, lowering the cost of capital and driving down technology costs and cost to consumers.
  5. Drive strategic investment that anticipates future system needs.  Early, strategic investments in critical enabling infrastructure networks and grid flexibility in particular, as well as removing structural barriers to renewables growth will help drive decarbonisation.

“I am determined that COP26 will consign coal power to history and help keep the 1.5-degree target alive.

“Last month the G7 agreed to end all new direct government support for international coal power by the end of 2021. We are seeing real progress but we know there is more to do.

“I would like to thank our COP26 Principal Partner, SSE, and others for the work they are doing. I look forward to working with them ahead of the summit in Glasgow.”

COP26 President, Alok Sharma

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Martin Pibworth, SSE Group Energy and Commercial Director, said:

“The UK has driven decarbonisation at a faster rate than any other country on the planet and learnt some lessons – good and bad – along the way.

“The UK has 13 years of post-Climate Change Act experience to offer the international community as they design their own blueprints for achieving net zero. Legally binding targets, focussing on decarbonising electricity first as the key to wider decarbonisation, and stable long-term support mechanisms have all ensured remarkable progress on decarbonisation whilst keeping the lights on and costs down. This is a fantastic success story and shows what can be done with the right policies in place.

“Despite huge successes there remain challenges ahead and the UK has not yet achieved sufficient investment in low carbon flexible electricity generation despite good progress on carbon capture and storage, This progress needs replicating for technologies such as hydro pumped storage, hydrogen power generation and batteries, all of which will be integral to a net zero power system.”

Simon Virley, KPMG Vice Chair and Head of Energy and Natural Resources, who authored the report said:

“The UK has made impressive progress with its decarbonisation journey, but there are still challenges to meeting low carbon goals, not least in creating an energy system designed to fully incentivise net zero. Increasing flexibility in the energy network is one work in progress that will be critical to fully harness the power of renewables. It’s also important to drive down the cost of low carbon solutions to encourage more participants to participate in demand-side response – which in turn will help establish a more responsive energy network.

“With the majority of the world’s economy now signed up to net zero targets the focus needs to shift to how those goals can be met at a local, national and global level. We need practical solutions coupled with robust frameworks and governance to build a credible path to a low-carbon future.”

As well as the UK’s successes the report also outlines where more work is needed in areas like electricity market design to deal with lower electricity prices from low-cost renewables, anticipatory investment in networks and transmission charging in order to facilitate technologies in their ideal locations. It highlights the need to make progress in decarbonising heat and transport.

The report states: “There is clearly no formula that will determine whether a country is successful at decarbonising the sectors of its economy while maintaining international economic competitivity, attracting new investment in an emerging low carbon sector whilst ensuring a just transition for its citizens. However, the UK experience, with both its successes and challenges it now faces can be summarised in give guiding principles that can be applied to any country looking at decarbonising its economy.”

Find out more about the report here.

 

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