Not all doom and gloom, the Net Zero pathway has always been clear

3rd Aug 2020


In the midst of a global pandemic, facing an economic downturn and Brexit just months away you’d be forgiven for considering whether Net Zero by 2050 was the least of our concerns. But that target is in statute – as it should be and the UK is a world-leader in showing how it can be done.

Let’s look at progress to date. Overall GHG reduction from 1990 of 275 million tonnes of carbon, or 39 percent. Leading the way is the power sector, shedding 152 million tonnes of that total, reducing sector emissions by 63 per cent. It is a transformed system. As so many pundits have commented, the consumer hasn’t been negatively affected (aside from paying higher energy bills), with no disruption to the home. Appliances have been made more efficient. They do a better job, more cost effectively than they did in 1990, so the consumer experience has been positive.

Where consumers have had a choice to make over alternatives, such as what car to drive, holiday at home or abroad, what heating appliance do they use, then progress is less stunning. Residential emissions are down 26 per cent over the same period and transport under 10 per cent.

The logical conclusion is that a systems approach to decarbonisation is more successful than a consumer-led one. Given this, let’s look at what National Grid’s Future Energy Scenario, published last week, has to say on the matter.

In their three heat scenarios, different pathways to decarbonisation are outlined. ‘Consumer Transformation’ relies on electric heat pumps; ‘Leading the Way’ on a combination of electrification and hydrogen, including hybrid heat pumps (which is both a gas boiler and a heat pump in each home); ‘System Transformation’ relies predominantly on hydrogen boilers with a converted gas network distributing hydrogen and not natural gas.

The power sector has shown us the pathway. Decarbonise the system, socialise the cost of doing so across every household and minimise the active engagement and disruption expected of consumers. After all, I suspect they have enough to worry about already.

Best wishes

Mike Foster,CEO