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Energy industry leads the way towards zero carbon

10 Mar 2020


There is plenty of scepticism across the UK about whether our Government is doing enough to battle climate change. The clock is ticking on our 2050 zero carbon target and it seems that nothing is changing.

But when it comes to energy production, the figures are very clear. Within the last 8 years, the amount of CO2 produced by a kilowatt of electricity has been cut to less than a third in under a decade.

The efficiency of the grid has also drastically improved. We now use two thirds of the electricity we produce compared to just one third back in 2012.

Less coal, more wind power, more Smart meters and less oil are all helping to create a greener power source for the UK.

This, in turn, means our homes are far more environmentally friendly, even if you’ve not done anything to renovate them.

The Government has also announced a U-turn on its hatred for onshore wind and is relaxing planning guidance so new developments can incorporate them. There are already plans for a 100 dwelling site in Northern Ireland which will use its own turbines to be self-sufficient.

But there is truth in the argument that wind stops blowing and the sun doesn’t shine all the time, so we can’t completely rely on these technologies.

Therefore builders are now considering domestic battery stores. These help the National Grid cope with peaks in demands, cut fuel bills, and if used as a mainstream solution will make our energy grid far more efficient.

Solar panels are used to charge up the batteries during the day, and this energy is used in the early evening when power demands are at their highest.

A trial of 45 homes in London has shown battery storage reduced peak demand by more than half. The experiment is now being extended.

Many housebuilders are considering introducing this as part of their standard specification in readiness for changes to Approved Document Part L.

But battery storage isn’t just about individual homes – a project to build Europe’s largest battery has been given the green light in Wiltshire. Technology is progressing quickly… the initial plan to install a 50 MW battery has already doubled in capacity before work has even started on site.

With so many projects underway to decarbonise our electricity grid, work is now turning to our gas grid to see if this can be made greener.

We’ve all seen the headlines that gas boilers are to be phased out from new developments, but is a more sensible approach to continue using this infrastructure and to make gas a greener fuel source?

Many in the industry believe switching to hydrogen gas is the solution, but this will involve heavy investment in pipe upgrades, new boilers and hydrogen production plants.

This month the Government announced it’s investing £28 million to help create two of Europe’s first large-scale hydrogen plants, plus a hydrogen producing wind farm.

When up and running, these will feed into the gas main as our supply gradually switches away from reliance on fossil fuels.

Pumping hydrogen into our gas supply is another solution which means our homes are greener without us having to lift a finger.

When you look at the Government’s top-level line graphs, the energy sector is leading the way in showing how an industry – that was completely reliant on coal just ten years ago – can turn the corner and become far more environmentally friendly in a very short space of time.

But this is just one of the ways we generate pollution in this country. Other areas such as transport (moving to electric cars), and the energy efficiency of our homes (through The Future Homes Standard and PAS2035) need to follow suit.

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Jon Ponting

Energy & Sustainability Specialist


Jon Ponting

Energy & Sustainability Specialist