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Energy Systems Catapult models pathways to net zero

11 March 2020

A new report by Energy Systems Catapult has found Net Zero by 2050 is possible with support for innovation and scale-up across three essential areas – Low Carbon Technology, Land Use and Lifestyle.

The Innovating to Net Zero report modelled 100s of potential pathways to 2050 – ramping up or down different technologies and behaviour changes – to understand the combinations, interactions and trade-offs of competing decarbonisation approaches.

The internationally peer-reviewed Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME) is the UK’s leading techno-economic whole system model – which as been used by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), industry, academia and the UK Government. ESME is independent of sector interests and identifies cost-optimised decarbonisation pathways across the whole system.

Energy Systems Catapult Insight and Evidence lead Scott Milne, said: 

Last year the UK became the first major economy in the world to commit to a ‘Net Zero’ emissions target by 2050.

Now for the first time, we’ve modelled hundreds of potential pathways to get to Net Zero by 2050, ramping up or down different technologies and behaviour changes – to understand the different combinations, interactions and trade-offs of competing decarbonisation options to reach the most cost-optimised approaches.

Broadly each potential pathway uses a combination of two different approaches: a top-down technology focused approach or a bottom-up behaviour focused approach.

However, what stands out is – no matter which pathway the UK takes – innovation, investment and incentives across low carbon technology, land use and lifestyle is essential to achieve Net Zero.

And there are massive economic opportunities for the UK to lead the world in these areas.

Based on detailed analysis, the report set out 4 key policy recommendations:

  1. Innovation support for technologies – Nuclear, CCS and hydrogen – direct support for innovation and early deployment such as industrial clusters for CCS, funding mechanisms for CO2 transport & storage infrastructure, and support for advanced and modular nuclear and floating offshore wind.
  2. Economic incentives to go low carbon – balanced, economywide framework of market, pricing and regulatory interventions – such as new carbon standards for buildings to promote adoption of low or zero carbon heating and potentially road transport, and new incentives for climate friendly land use choices.
  3. Local Area Energy Planning – rolled out to identify the unique low carbon solutions, infrastructure and investment needs in different local areas to shape decision making.
  4. Reform of power markets – to improve efficiency and unlock flexibility and distributed low carbon technologies, including to match user needs and local system circumstances.

Find out more about Energy Systems Catapult here

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