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Renewables could provide two-thirds of electricity by 2030

Words: Laura Edgar
Solar panels / Shutterstock

A ‘sharp’ decline in the cost of renewable energy generation means that Britain should aim to meet two-thirds of electricity needs by 2030 through renewable sources.

Research commissioned by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) finds that this level of renewable energy electricity generation can be delivered at the same overall cost as meeting only half of total demand by that date.

The study, carried out by Aurora Energy, says the UK could make “significant” progress towards its net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target if the rights steps are taken.

As a result, the NIC has updated its recommended target for the use of renewables in a low-cost, low-carbon electricity system from 50 per cent to 65 per cent by 2030.

The analysis reflects the impact of the falling cost of renewable electricity technologies and the relative speed with which they can be built, said the NIC.

Private investment, which could provide confidence in the economy as it recovers from Covid-19, could be encouraged through shifts in government policy to support more renewable electricity schemes.

Renewables, Recovery and Reaching Net Zero states: “The government has made a number of positive commitments on renewables deployment. The ambition to deliver 40GW of offshore wind and the re-opening of Pot 1 contracts for difference auctions for onshore wind and solar will deliver significantly increased deployment rates of renewables. Achieving 65 per cent renewable generation by 2030 can be done if ambitions are realised through an active push from government to generate the private sector investment needed.”

It goes on to recommend that a refreshed pipeline of ‘contracts for difference’ auctions should be set out to accelerate more offshore wind, onshore wind and solar power projects. Further work should also be done on new storage technologies and efficient interconnectors to support renewables and guarantee the security of the electricity system. This could include an increased role for low-carbon hydrogen generation.

Sir John Armitt, chair of the NIC, said: “The government should be credited for recent steps to encourage quicker deployment of renewables, and for setting up successful mechanisms for encouraging private sector investments. These latest projections suggest we can afford to go further, faster without hitting consumers in the pocket.

“The National Infrastructure Strategy needs to include a long-term policy on future energy that reflects these facts and helps deliver the green recovery we all want to see.”

RenewableUK’s head of policy and regulation Rebecca Williams said: “The NIC is right to raise its ambition on renewables but we can go even further and even faster. Wind alone can generate more than 50 per cent of the UK's electricity by 2030, so their new 65 per cent target for renewables overall could go even higher.

“We welcome the NIC’s call for annual auctions for contracts to generate renewable power, but the most important step that government could take would be to lift the cap on the amount of new renewable energy capacity we can procure in each auction. This would allow us to maximise the benefits of cheap renewable power for consumers, cutting bills.”

* Some parts of the report refer to mainland Britain and others to the UK.

Renewables, Recovery and Reaching Net Zero can be found on the NIC website.

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