Net zero is possible by 2050, if the UK supports innovation and scale-up across the essential areas of low carbon technology, land use and lifestyle, according to Energy Systems (ES) Catapult.
On 10 March, it published Innovating to Net Zero, in which it modelled hundreds of potential pathways to 2050 in a bid to understand the combinations, interactions and trade-offs of competing decarbonisation approaches. Success, it found, will be dependent on innovation across the whole system with carbon capture and storage (CCS) and bioenergy both “essential” to delivering net zero. It noted that an 80% target is still possible without CCS and scaling up biomass but comes with a much higher system cost. CCS will also be vital for mitigating industrial emissions and hydrogen under net zero.
Elsewhere, it noted hydrogen may have to grow from virtually zero to levels that are equivalent to today’s electricity generation to supply industry, heat and heavy transport, while electricity generation itself will have to double to supply substantial increases in heating and transport. It added that net zero cost can be limited to 1-2% of GDP with stable, credible policies enacted in this parliament to help reduce the cost of capital for the private sector.
It made several recommendations for “robust and enduring” policies and regulation that will be key to building the necessary confidence with innovators to invest in low carbon products and services. These include economic incentives to go low carbon, such as new carbon standards for buildings to promote adoption of low or zero carbon heating; direct support for innovation and early deployment in industrial clusters for CCS and hydrogen production; and reform of power markets in a bid to improve efficiency and unlock flexibility and distributed low carbon technologies.