UK falling behind in race to decarbonise electricity


Electricity pylon with glowing cables

The UK risks failing to meet its 2035 target to decarbonise power if action is not taken to accelerate infrastructure rollout, a new report warns.

In the first in-depth review of its kind, researchers at Energy Futures Lab, Imperial College London’s global energy institute, assessed progress across 28 areas of infrastructure and enablers for infrastructure delivery.

The Briefing Paper, Delivering Our Future Power System, identifies seven areas where ‘urgent attention’ is needed to ensure infrastructure is deployed at the rates required to achieve the target, including energy efficiency, distribution, and governance. 

"The 2035 target can be met, but not without a significant ramping-up of policy support." Ali Ersöz Co-Author, Delivering Our Future Power System

The report also highlights the need to substantially increase the levels of financing available to fund the transition to clean electricity and calls on the government to set out a clear and credible plan to attract investment, noting that both the US and EU already have significant incentives in place.

“The UK is making good progress in some areas of infrastructure delivery, but the 2035 goal is incredibly ambitious. It can be met, but not without a significant ramping-up of policy support,” says lead author Ali Ersöz, currently an Investment Principal at Verdane and a Visiting Researcher at Energy Futures Lab.

The report calls for the publication of a long-term strategy for the delivery of a decarbonised power system and the creation of a minister-led infrastructure delivery body to coordinate actions across governmental and regulatory bodies.

The authors also warn that public engagement and understanding of the scale of the task is currently limited and call for a comprehensive plan to establish a broad base of support for electricity decarbonisation and involve the public in decision-making about key trade-offs.

“Community opposition to new network infrastructure has the potential to derail the timely decarbonisation of our power system,” says co-author Dr Aidan Rhodes, a Research Fellow at Energy Futures Lab.

“It is essential that the government secures public support for its efforts, potentially through further deliberative forums like the UK Climate Assembly but also by implementing a generous compensation scheme for communities that will bear more of the burden of hosting critical power system infrastructure.”

The transition to a decarbonised electricity system by 2035 is one the central pillars in the UK’s plans to move to a Net Zero economy by the middle of the century. The framework set out in the Briefing Paper can be used to track progress towards that goal over the coming decade. 

Read Delivering Our Future Power System in full here.


Conor McNally

Conor McNally
The Grantham Institute for Climate Change

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