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July 2020

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National Grid: UK’s electricity system could go carbon-negative from 2033

The operating firm for National Grid is predicting that the UK’s electricity grid could capture, offset or absorb more carbon than it emits by as early as 2033, if efforts to scale up renewable energy generation and carbon capture technologies are accelerated.

The ESO said last year that the grid would be ready for net-zero by 2025

The ESO said last year that the grid would be ready for net-zero by 2025

Published today, the National Grid Electricity System Operator’s (ESO) latest Future Energy Scenarios report outlines four future scenarios for Great Britain’s energy systems – three of which would see the nation reach net-zero for or ahead of its legally binding 2050 deadline.

In the “most stretching” scenario, the ESO and wider electric power sector would be able to deliver net-negative emissions within 13 years by rapidly scaling up the use of bioenergy and the installation of carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) technologies. By shifting from fossil fuel generation to biomass and bringing large-scale CCUS arrays online at all industrial clusters by 2030, along with hydrogen infrastructure, the report claims, the power sector could sequester 62 million tonnes of CO2e by mid-century. 70% of biomass facilities could create negative emissions in this scenario.

At present, only two industrial clusters with hydrogen and CCUS capacity are due to come online within the next decade – the Humber project, spearheaded by Drax and Equinor, and HyNet North West, spearheaded by Cadent.

As such, the report calls on UK policymakers and corporates seeking to demonstrate net-zero ambition ahead of the 2050 target to increase investment in these emerging technologies; enhance collaboration on cross-sector regulations and services and work with key stakeholders on a local basis.

Moreover, aligning the UK with the National Grid ESO’s most ambitious net-zero scenario would require rapid and far-reaching improvements to energy efficiency across the nation. The report describes energy efficiency improvements as a “no-regret action” for policymakers and corporates, given that the business case already stacks up favourably in the majority of cases.

In its most ambitious scenario, the total energy demand for the road transport sector falls by 75% between 2019 and 2050, due to a combination of electrification, automation, increased efficiency (carsharing, more efficient logistics) and modal shifts towards active travel and public transport. Similarly, the energy consumption of the average home falls to 25% of current levels, as housebuilders, local authorities, central government and individual homeowners invest in deep retrofits and smart technologies.

For these benefits to be realised, by 2050, 80% of households must play host to an EV charger; vehicle-to-grid (V2G) networks will need to be rapidly scaled up to reach 5.5 million vehicles; eight million hybrid heat pumps will need to be installed; eight million homes will need to be fitted with thermal storage and load shifting technologies, and policies to phase-out oil and natural-gas-fired boilers will need to be developed as soon as possible.

“Although these are not firm predictions, we’ve talked to over 600 industry experts to build this insight and it’s clear while net-zero is achievable, there are significant changes ahead,” the ESO’s head of strategy Mark Herring said.

Herring went on to warn that bringing any of the three net-zero-aligned scenarios detailed in the report would require “immediate action” from the Government on key energy policies.

BEIS is notably set to publish the Energy Whitepaper, Heat Strategy and Buildings Strategy this Autumn, following extensive delays. The National Infrastructure Strategy, initially due for launch at the March budget, and the Department for Transport’s roadmap for aligning all modes with net-zero, are both earmarked for publication at the end of 2020.

Road to zero

The Future Energy Scenarios report is the first from National Grid ESO since it claimed that Great Britain’s electricity system can operate as a zero-carbon grid by 2025.

Responding to the Operator’s research and to the updated Climate Change Act, National Grid committed to align its model with the 2050 net-zero target by investing to improve efficiency, electrify fleets, minimise natural gas leaks and bring more renewable generation online.

Its approach has, however, faced criticism. Some groups said they would have liked to have seen a more ambitious deadline, given that the electricity sector will be crucial to the decarbonisation of sectors like heat, transport and heavy industry.

National Grid and BEIS have also been told that their net-zero strategies are over-reliant on biomass and CCS, as biomass has the potential to bear negative land-use consequences and CCS may not mature and upscale rapidly enough.

Sarah George


Iceland on track to become a net-zero business by 2042

Iceland Foods has revealed that it has reduced its operational emissions footprint by 74% since 2011, despite growing the business, putting it on track to reach net-zero by 2042.

Iceland had been targeting a 30% cut to emissions between 2011 and 2020, but has delivered a 74% decrease. Image: Iceland/Webershandwick 

Iceland had been targeting a 30% cut to emissions between 2011 and 2020, but has delivered a 74% decrease. Image: Iceland/Webershandwick 

In an update published today (27 July), the supermarket revealed that it is on track to emit 46,000 tonnes of CO2e through Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions, down from 250,000 tonnes from these sources in 2011. This is despite the fact that an additional 181 Iceland stores have opened over the past nine years.

As such, Iceland will now need to develop new emissions goals. Its old goals, launched in 2011, were to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 30% by 2020, rising to 60% by 2030. At the time, the business believed it could achieve carbon neutrality or net-zero by 2050. It now sees 2042 as a reasonable deadline for its long-term emissions goal and has said it is willing to move this date forward should it exceed future targets.

Iceland has said it will work with the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to ensure that its new targets will be aligned with the Paris Agreement. Once an organisation makes such a commitment, it has 24 months to develop goals and have them approved.

“Over the past decade, we have worked with our partners and invested in technology to drive down our carbon emissions by nearly three quarters despite adding nearly 200 stores to our estate,” Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker said.

“This is the start of formal carbon reporting and our next steps will be to review the use of Science-Based Targets and to create a project-based approach to working with our suppliers.”

Walker attributes the supermarket’s success in decoupling emissions from growth over the past nine years to investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The business purchases 100% renewable electricity for all stores; has been replacing all freezers with efficient versions that use natural refrigerants and consume 30% less energy; replaced all signage lighting with LED bulbs in 2012 and all store lighting with LED bulbs in 2017. It has also installed automatic lighting controllers in all stores, synchronising lighting to trading times and security alarms.

Other retailers aiming to reach net-zero ahead of the UK Government’s 2050 deadline include Sainsbury’s, which has a 2040 deadline, and the British Retail Consortium’s net-zero roadmap coalition. Members of the 20-strong business coalition include Boots, Marks & Spencer’s (M&S), Dixons Carphone, Lidl GB and WH Smith.

Indirect impact

According to CDP, the average corporation produces five-and-a-half-times more emissions from its supply chain that through its direct operations.

As such, more and more businesses are moving to set targets for Scope 3 (indirect) emissions as they seek to align with the Paris Agreement or to comply with legally binding net-zero targets.

Iceland has not yet developed Scope 3 emissions targets but, in order to be certified as 1.5C-aligned by the SBTi, it will need to do so.

Walker has confirmed that Iceland will measure and report on the life-cycle emissions associated with packaging for its own-label lines, including manufacturing and end-of-life going forward, amid warnings that the carbon footprint of the global plastics packaging sector will rise dramatically in the coming decades.

Emissions from third-party logistics companies are also a key focus area for the supermarket. Iceland says it will “work closely” with such firms, like XPO Logistics, to improve efficiencies and accelerate the shift to low-carbon transport. However, time-bound, numerical targets are yet to be developed.

Beyond its own operations, Iceland, like many UK-based corporates, has been urging policymakers to deliver a green Covid-19 recovery package. Walker and his team have been vocal supporters of new policy measures to align the UK with Sustainable Development Goal 2, Zero Hunger – which would require the nation’s food waste footprint to halve within a decade. They are also calling for further measures to help businesses build resilient and local supply chains and invest in low-carbon buildings, and for a green economy skills strategy to help retrain those left unemployed by the pandemic for work in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was reportedly set to launch a dedicated fund for reskilling Brits to work in the renewable energy, cleantech and built environment sectors, coupled with additional investment in these sectors to assist with their expansion, at the Summer Economic Update. Such a scheme was not forthcoming may now launch at the Autumn Statement or after the 2021 Budget.

Sarah George



The Heating Swaffham Prior project has received a £2.146 million grant to help provide sustainable heating to homes in Cambridgeshire. Cambridgeshire County Council is working with the Swaffham Prior Community Land Trust to develop the project, which will help to transition the 300 strong village of Swaffham in East Cambridgeshire to clean heating. The grant has been received from the Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP), which itself is supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and will help drive forwards the project that has been under development since 2017. It will include 130 200m deep boreholes being drilled into the ground to extract heat to form a heat network. This will be supplemented by a large air source heat pump, which will be powered by solar panels at the energy centre. Joshua Schumann, chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Environment and Sustainability Committee, welcomed the grant saying it was a “fantastic project” and the first of its kind.

Current 24th July 2020 read more »

Green energy supplier Good Energy has today announced plans to launch a new flexible tariff for homes that use heat pumps in the autumn, in a move designed to help customers capitalise on the government’s recently-announced £2bn Green Home Grant scheme to support energy efficiency improvements. Announced by the Chancellor earlier this month as part of a £3bn package of promised green building funding and support, the Green Home Grant scheme is set to allow homeowners to claim up to £10,000 to help upgrade their homes to become more energy efficient, with cost having long been seen as a major barrier to installing energy efficiency upgrades and technologies such as heat pumps. Good Energy said its new “competitive” tariff, which will be powered by renewable electricity, would help homeowners drive down costs of operating heat pumps, offering cheaper energy rates at specific times of the day to allow them to use their heat pumps cost-effectively.

Business Green 27th July 2020 read more »

Britain will fail to hit its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 if it relies on a steady transformation of its industrial and consumer economy, according to National Grid. In its Future Energy Scenarios report, the Grid says that three of the four road maps to achieving the goal could work — but only if immediate action is taken. With the caveat that the report has not taken account of the pandemic, it says the target will be missed if ministers focus only on decarbonising the energy and transport sectors and neglect efforts to change consumer behaviour and the way homes are heated. National Grid says that along with more offshore wind farms and carbon-capture schemes, there will need to be more than 11 million electric vehicles on British roads by 2030 and more than 30 million by 2040. It also says that natural gas boilers in homes must be abolished and replaced with heat pumps, with as many eight million homes actively managing their heating demands by storing heat.

Times 27th July 2020 read more »

Immediate action is required for Britain to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to a report by the country’s electricity system operator. Three out of four scenarios modelled by the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) show the country reaching the target by 2050 or earlier. But the Future Energy Scenarios (FES) report found doing so requires immediate action across all key technologies and policy areas, with fundamental changes for consumers, particularly in transport, heating and energy efficiency.

Energy Voice 27th July 2020 read more »

Carbon emissions from Britain’s electricity system could turn negative by as early as 2033 if the UK uses carbon capture technology alongside more renewable energy to reach its climate targets, according to a report from National Grid. The electricity network operator on Monday set out its vision for an “emissions negative” grid that would include 30m electric vehicles on UK roads, and 8m heat pumps used to replace gas boilers in energy-efficient homes. In National Grid’s most progressive vision for Britain’s pathway towards its 2050 climate targets it claims that net carbon emissions from the electricity sector could turn negative within 13 years by using carbon capture technology alongside bioenergy sources.

Guardian 27th July 2020 read more »

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