‘UK needs 120GW of new low carbon capacity to go net zero by 2050’

Aurora Energy Research says 100GW of new renewable energy needs to be deployed, as well as 20GW of new nuclear and 3GW of CCS

Pathway to COP26 report

The UK’s legally-binding target to reach net zero emissions by 2050 will require more than 120GW of new low carbon capacity.

That’s according to Aurora Energy Research, which predicts wind and solar capacity will need to increase by more than 100GW, soaring from 33GW in 2019 to more than 140GW in 2050.

It notes around 20GW of new nuclear will also be required, as well as 3GW of carbon capture and storage (CCS) installations.

The research says the intermittency of wind and solar means short-duration storage technologies such as batteries and pumped hydropower will be needed to balance the grid – it expects up to 30GW of short-duration storage will be required.

It notes 185TWh of ‘excess’ power being generated each year could be used to produce green hydrogen for use in decarbonising the heat, transport or industrial sectors.

Aurora Energy Reseach notes in the absence of traditional gas power, alternative long-duration clean storage capacity such as flow batteries, air storage, hydrogen storage or gas plants equipped with CCS would be required to fill in longer windless or sunless periods.

Ana Barillas, Principal at Aurora Energy Research, said: “The UK has set an ambitious target to deliver a net zero economy by 2050. We estimate that over 100GWs of new wind and solar capacity will be required to deliver this in the power sector.

“This poses significant changes for operation of the power system – ensuring that the lights stay on despite the fluctuations in renewables output. Achieving this will require up to 30GW of short duration storage and 20GW of longer duration firm capacity.”

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