The UK should grow its solar capacity to 210GW by 2050, unlocking a low cost transition to net zero, a new report has found.
Wind and solar will need increased investment to grow to generate 98% of the electricity mix, up from 27% in 2020, according to the report, published by energy provider Good Energy with modelling from the Energy Systems Catapult (ESC).
This will require over 200GW of solar, as well as 150GW of wind and 100GW of lithium-ion battery energy storage, the Renewable Nation: Pathways to a Zero Carbon Britain report has said. A substantial amount of that growth is possible by the end of this decade, with 100GW of solar and 70GW of wind needed to produce 84% of the country’s electricity by 2030.
The report – which is the first to use the ESC’s Storage and Flexibility model, which itself combines long-term investment planning with hour-by-hour grid balancing – found that no new nuclear beyond that under construction currently was needed for net zero.
But ‘people power’ will be, with calls on the government to enable domestic renewables to help meet electricity demand as it doubles by mid-century. This includes an aim of having half of all houses feature rooftop solar PV. Furthermore over 80% of heating and 90% of transport will need to be electrified.
The government should incentivise the installation of rooftop solar to help the sector grow over the next thirty years, as well as provide interest-free financing for green home measures and "bring forward the digitalisation of the energy sector", the report said.
Beyond solar, the UK should embrace a diversity of renewables, Good Energy argues, by ringfencing capacity for new technologies such as wave, tidal and geothermal in future government-backed schemes. Collectively these could provide 34GW of power by 2050.
The annual total cost of the energy system in 2050 is forecast to be £126 billion, including all heating, transportation, electricity and industry. This is in comparison to the current annual spend of £117 billion, therefore Good Energy has suggested it will cost only an extra $14 - 19 billion per year to reach net zero status.
The report provides an “inspiring vision of a zero carbon Britain which is greener, fairer and eminently achievable”, said Juliet Davenport OBE, founder of Good Energy, said.
“It demands meaningful, urgent action to turn that vision into a reality. That action must come from all sections of society, enabling the greater deployment of renewables, storage and flexibility. The creation of a new net zero watchdog is crucial to protect consumers and ensure we are on track.”
For more on Good Energy’s Renewable Nation: Pathways to a Zero Carbon Britain report see our sister site Current±.