The UK has set a new 2035 target for a net zero electricity system, with the country to ‘double down’ on renewables, hydrogen and nuclear.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed the target yesterday (7 October) after it was initially reported in The Times at the weekend. Johnson was expected to announce it during his speech at the Conservative Party Conference on 6 October, but while a commitment to further renewables growth was touched on, the target was absent.
It comes amidst a turbulent period in the energy sector due to soaring wholesale electricity prices, which have led to a number of small suppliers shuttering over the last month.
“Recent volatile gas prices have also demonstrated how the way to strengthen Britain’s energy security, ensure greater energy independence and protect household energy budgets in the long-term is through clean power that is generated in this country for the people of this country,” said Kwarteng.
According to the Committee on Climate Change, solar will need to be quadrupled to reach this target. This would see UK capacity growing to 54GW by 2035.
Chris Hewett, chief executive at SEUK said the new target was “very exciting and hugely welcome”.
“Whilst government support and taxpayer funding are required still, for some low carbon technologies, solar, and wind are now the cheapest forms of power in the country, so will be the backbone of the transition whilst guaranteeing the lowest energy prices possible.”
He added that there is currently enough solar projects being developed in the UK to double its output in less than a decade, with more than 8GW in the last 12 months added alone.
Britain’s electricity network has already come a long way in terms of decarbonisation, with the share of low-carbon electricity generation rising to 59.3% in 2020, with renewables at a record 43.1%. In particular, it has moved away from coal and in June moved forward the target of a coal-free grid to 2024.
The energy sector in the UK has welcomed the new target as a “positive commitment”, but called for substantive policy to back it up.
Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, chief executive of the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), said: “Firm, long-term policy is now needed to ensure that this target is met including; regular Contracts for Difference auctions; routes to market for large scale energy storage and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS); plus a grid that appropriately rewards flexibility. We look forward to receiving the upcoming Net Zero Strategy in the coming weeks and hope that it will provide detailed and wide-ranging support for all renewables and clean technologies.”
Earlier this week, trade body Regen also called for an increase in Contracts for Difference auctions to reach this net zero 2035 target. As part of this, it called on the government to double the capacity for Pot One technologies – onshore solar and wind which are considered established technologies – in the next auction to 10GW.