United Kingdom Renewable Energy

United Kingdom—No 100% Commitment by 2050
Benchmark: Commitment to reduce overall emissions by 80% by 2050

The UK has not made a commitment to reach 100% renewable energy by 2050.

However, in accordance with the European Union’s submitted INDC as part of the Paris Agreement—in which the UK’s target is included—EU states are required to collectively reduce emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. Also, due to the 2008 Climate Change Act, the UK is legally bound to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

Though these targets do not necessitate certain levels of uptake in renewable energy, high uptake levels would appear required in order to ensure that the targets are met. Mandated by the UK’s 3rd, 4th and 5th carbon budgets is a 37% emission reduction by 2020, 51% by 2025 and 57% by 2030 respectively. A key part of the carbon budgets’ plan has been a restructuring of the UK’s energy sector. This has taken the form of rapidly reducing the use of coal (with the aim for a complete phase out by 2050), to be replaced by gas and renewable sources. This has been extremely successful and has constituted the bulk of the UK’s 4.5% yearly emission reductions since 2012—to the extent that the government has recognized that potential further gains in the energy sector will eventually level out, so greater progress must be made elsewhere to make up for it. The carbon budgets detail how these goals will be achieved: auctioning large-scale renewable generation projects, providing a route to market for the cheapest low-carbon generation technologies, and supporting technological innovations. All of these are supported by locally-sourced materials and jobs but with energy security remaining the top priority (which has often been to the detriment of progress on renewables—as the government has persistently pursued fracking, and removed subsidies for renewable industries that are not yet well established).

Though perhaps not classified as renewable, the largest non-fossil fuel electricity generation project
planned in the UK is the Hinkley Point nuclear power station. When finished, it is projected to provide 7% of the UK’s total energy needs—from a low carbon source. However, there have been considerable concerns regarding the cost compared to the pay off —that it is far too expensive, and that the design is not feasible. Furthermore, if the carbon budget’s recommendations for energy efficiency measures were fully implemented it would result in a 7% decrease in energy demand anyway.

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