New technologies could offer cheapest route to net zero

Increased investment in new technologies could prove the best way to deliver low cost power to UK consumers and deliver net zero by 2050, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has said.

In analysis published on 6 March, the NIC explained that through detailed modelling, calling on the latest available industry data, consumers could see electricity bills up to 30% lower than under alternative energy mixes, should technologies such as low carbon hydrogen power generation prove as effective as projections have suggested.

The NIC’s paper noted cost reductions in bringing renewable technologies on stream over the past 10 years, whereas costs of building and running nuclear power stations had not fallen consistently. When factoring in the potential for bioenergy with carbon capture and storage to run baseload, the report concluded this weakens the case for committing to a new fleet of nuclear power stations. Therefore, a renewables-based system looks a “safer bet”, said the NIC, than constructing multiple new nuclear plants. However, owed to uncertainty, it advocated against cancelling the nuclear programme entirely as that would risk a “stop start” approach and that could prove highly inefficient.

The Commission called for the UK electricity system to be running on at least 50% renewable generation by 2030 as part of the transition to a highly renewable electricity supply. It made a series of recommendations as to how the government can achieve this, including setting out a pipeline of Contracts for Difference auctions to deliver this needed generation and to not agree support for more than one nuclear power station beyond Hinkley Point C, before 2025.