Business can provide the technical solutions that we badly need to reach net zero

2nd November 2020 | Commercial Energy

It is the ingenuity of private business that is going to provide the solutions if we are to reach net zero. Achieving carbon net zero by 2050 is now a legal requirement, but most of us only have a vague idea on how we are going to do this. Is it even possible without giving up what we think of as modern life? So, if you know that we need to achieve this, but are not sure how, then this is my take on how we are going to get there.

Some of this will be wrong, as technology and the economy develop, but I believe that this is the direction of travel. This is the relatively easy bit. The move to renewable electricity generation is already well underway. We currently generate c10GW in offshore wind. By 2030 this is planned to increase to a whopping 40GW, and thereafter 75-80 GW by 2050. To put this into perspective, the total size of the electricity generation market in the UK is currently 68GW.

Net zero

Simply replacing what we have is not going to be enough, as transport, domestic heating and much industry moves towards electricity from other power sources – estimates suggest we will need to double, or even treble, generating capacity. So, wind will need to be bolstered by other low carbon or zero carbon technologies which will also need a form of reliable backup for when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine.

Hydrogen is hugely important as a (potentially) low carbon fuel for heavy industry and heavy transport when electricity is not suitable, and can be made from water when excess electricity is available. But it is unlikely that this will every produce enough hydrogen.

So “blue” hydrogen created from natural gas in conjunction with carbon capture and storage (“CSS”) is likely to be needed. CCS is a developing – without which it is hard to see how we can succeed.

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