In its vision for the UK's transition to net zero, RenewableUK predicts that installed wind capacity will surge six-fold to more than 120GW by 2050.
Renewables could provide more than three quarters of the UK's power needs by mid-century, according to a report published today by trade body RenewableUK that touts the critical role wind energy expansion and green hydrogen development will play in the country's net zero transition.
Entitled Powering the Future: RenewableUK's Vision of the Transition, the report joins a wave of recent studies detailing how the government could deliver on the country's 2050 net zero ambition while driving a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
According to RenewableUK's analysis, wind will be one of the dominant players in the UK's energy transition, with the report predicting that installed capacity could surge six-fold to more than 120GW by 2050.
The group warned the right policy environment is required to spur this boom and recommended the government increase the frequency of auctions for clean power contracts so that they are held annually. It also urged the government to introduce more targeted support for innovative renewable technologies, such as floating wind, wind and tidal power, and green hydrogen facilities, which are not yet able to compete with more established power sources.
With the right policies, the UK's offshore wind industry could reach 40GW by 2030 - which would cover one-third of UK's electricity demand - rising to 90GW by 2050, the report predicts.
Since 2010, the UK has attracted 48 per cent of roughly £80bn invested in offshore wind in Europe, making the country the biggest offshore wind market in the world, RenewableUK notes. And vast amounts of investment in offshore wind could continue over the years to come, with the report anticipating that the current 40GW by 2030 goal will require a further £54bn of investment.
RenewableUK chief economist and report author Marina Valls said it was "an incredibly exciting time" for the energy sector. "We're entering an era of rapid technological change as we move closer towards total decarbonisation, using an even wider range of technologies such as renewable hydrogen alongside more wind, solar, battery storage and - crucially - people participating far more pro-actively in the way our modern energy system operates, making it more flexible," she said.
The report notes that green hydrogen - hydrogen produced using renewable electricity - holds "huge potential" as a zero-carbon alternative to fossil fuels, in particular in heavy industry, shipping, and heating homes. The fuel could become cost competitive in the UK more quickly than in other countries, due to strong climate change policies and high renewable energy capacity, RenewableUK said.
"Renewable energy sources are penetrating the global energy markets faster than anyone expected, and generating power cheaper than fossil fuels sooner than anyone predicted," Valls added. "In the world we are trying to build, the transition to a modern energy system ultimately means two things: reduced emissions and reduced energy bills for households."
The report, which sets out a series of recommendations for government to deliver the right market signals and policies, notes that solar, marine energy, and energy storage technologies are also set to grow exponentially in the years to come.
The wide-ranging report also outlined the group's vision for a more flexible energy grid, where clean electricity will be used to power transport and provide heating through electric vehicles, solar technologies, heat pumps, and other emerging technologies. The approach also promisesto help consumers reduce energy costs by, for example, selling power stored in batteries or EVs to the grid when it is needed most.
RenewableUK has recommended that the government maintain routes to market and certainty to support investment in low cost decentralised renewables, such as onshore wind, and ensure energy market regulation accelerates the transition to a smart, flexible, low carbon energy system. It also calls for a "cost-reflective approach" to the network charging and connection queue regime that delivers net zero emissions at the least cost.
It also said the government should implement and build on the existing Smart Systems and Flexibility plan to accelerate the development of flexibility markets at national and local level, and establish a framework that would enable consumers to adapt energy consumption and access lower cost electricity at times of low demand or high renewables output.
The government should encourage greater flexibility through increasing interconnection, vehicle-to-grid technologies, and industrial demand response to maximise variable renewable generation, the report advised.
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