Climate change is a matter of international importance requiring global support from governments, organisations, and individuals alike.
The 2015 Paris Agreement set countries the task of reducing emissions to tackle rising global temperatures. For them to deliver on their promises these countries will need to introduce laws and policies that combat the use of fossil fuels.
The UK is establishing itself as a leader in environmental management and the fight against climate change, after becoming the first country to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming.
On 27 June 2019 the government committed the UK to a legally binding target of net-zero emissions by 2050, paving the way for other countries to do the same.
This has become known as Net-Zero 2050.
In our article we discuss how meeting the target of net-zero emissions in the UK by 2050, while ensuring a reliable energy system and affordable supply to homes and businesses, will bring many challenges that will require radical changes in both consumer behaviour and energy infrastructure.
Chapter One – A Brief History of Climate Change
Chapter Two – What is Net-Zero 2050
Chapter Three – Why Do We Need Net-Zero 2050?
Chapter Four – Who is Affected by Net-Zero 2050?
Chapter Five – What Progress Has Been Made to Achieve Net-Zero by 2050?
Chapter Six – A Roadmap To Achieving Net-Zero by 2050
Chapter Seven – How You Can Achieve Net-Zero 2050
Chapter Eight – What Do The Experts Say?
Chapter Nine – Net-Zero 2050 FAQs
Chapter Ten – Net-Zero 2050 Round Up
Chapter Eleven – Net-Zero 2050 Conclusion
Bonus Chapter – Q & A With Ed Horgan
Chapter One – A Brief History of Climate Change
Climate change is not a new issue.
In fact, in 1965 a US President’s Advisory Committee panel warned that the greenhouse effect is a matter a matter of “real concern”.
In 1987 the Montreal Protocol became the first global environmental initiative with the objective to prevent the production and use of ozone-depleting chemical products. Alteration to refrigerants and aerosol products have successfully started to reverse ozone depletion in the atmosphere.
Three years later the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produced its first Assessment Report. It concluded that temperatures had risen by 0.3°C to 0.6°C over the last century and that human-based emissions are adding to the atmosphere’s greenhouse gases.
In 1992 during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the United Framework Convention on Climate Change was agreed. It had the objective of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrates in the atmosphere.
Nine years later the IPCC released its third Assessment Report which provided new and stronger evidence that humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases were the main cause of global warming seen in the second half of the 20th century.
The IPCC’s next report in 2007 concluded that it was more than 90% likely that humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for modern day climate change.
A couple of years later, in 2009, China overtook the US as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, although the US remained significantly ahead on a per capita basis.
Data released in 2011 showed that concentrations of greenhouse gases were rising faster than in previous years. The IPCC’s fifth Assessment Report in 2013 stated that scientists are now 95% certain than humans are the dominant cause of global warming since the 1950s.
The IPCC are currently working and scoring their latest Assessment Report which can be expected in 2021.
However, it’s important to remember that climate change and global warming isn’t a new issue.
In fact, there have been several attempts and global discussions to tackle this.
One major example of this is the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
This commits parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and was adopted in Kyoto on 11th December 1997 and then entered into force on 16th February 2005.
Chapter Two – What is Net-Zero 2050?
Net-Zero 2050 is a new initiative by the European Climate Foundation designed to tackle one of the biggest current global issues, climate change.
The Net-Zero 2050 initiative has received contributions from a wide range of experts and organisations.
It was adopted by consensus on December 12 2015 and currently 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement.
The 2015 Paris Agreement deals with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance and it is the Net-Zero 2050 initiative which hopes to accomplish those goals.
The plan to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050 is a target recommended by the Committee on Climate Change.
The practicality of this means that any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using carbon capture and storage technology.
At Zenergi our Energy Freedom initiative is our commitment to affecting change and leaving a legacy.
It is our promise to achieve freedom from rising energy costs, waste and energy suppliers. Our aim is to support organisations in taking control of their energy consumption.
Chapter Three – Why Do We Need Net-Zero 2050?
The scientific evidence and research for climate change is now becoming undeniable and irrefutable.
We can all see and feel how the world, weather and our environment is changing – and changing (in climate terms) quickly!
Year-on-year, season–on-season the changes are there for us all to see.
The research and scientific literature says that even if the earth heats by just 1.5°C there would be a brutal impact on future generations.
To give us the best chance of staving off climate change we must reduce emissions to net-zero.
By halting global warming to 1.5°C we stand the best chance of limiting the potential devastating implications of climate change.
If global warming and climate change isn’t curtailed we could experience rising sea levels, floods and droughts as well as food and water shortages.
If global warming exceeds 1.5°C even by half a degree it will create risks that any reasonable person would regard as deeply dangerous.
Experts suggest that reducing temperature increase to 1.5°C compared to 2°C will result in approximately several hundred million people being less exposed to the issues directly linked to climate change.
Experts say that the next 10 years will be absolutely critical in determining what kind of world will exist in the coming centuries.
Another such attempt at reducing emissions and slowing climate change is the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (formerly known as the “Carbon Reduction Commitment”)
The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme is a major UK governmental scheme designed to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency.
It targets medium to large non-energy intensive organisations in both the public and private sector.
The scheme incentivises these organisations to adopt more energy efficient practices and technology.
Chapter Four – Who Is Affected By Net-Zero 2050?
We’ve established the gravitas and size of the issue and the effort needed to achieve Net-Zero by 2050.
But who exactly does Net-Zero 2050 affect, and who can help the country achieve this massive goal?
In short, pretty much everyone!
However, the UK is leading the way by becoming the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050.
On the 27th June 2019 Chris Skidmore signed legislation to commit the UK to a legally binding target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
The UK is positioning itself as a world leader in relation to global warming and climate change, having already reduced emissions by 42% whilst growing its economy by 72%.
Chris Skidmore said, “The UK kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions”. He continued by saying, “Today we’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050”.
However, obviously tackling climate change requires more than just the UK’s effort.
It’s a global issue that requires a global solution.
Countries that are expected to lead the way are those that have signed the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Controversially, under Donald Trump’s presidency, the USA has signified its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. This isn’t possible until 2020, however, many policies which tie in with its departure have already been put in place.
Chapter Five – What Progress Has Been Made To Achieve Net-Zero 2050?
With such a momentous goal it’s critical that industries start making progress as soon as possible.
In order to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 there are a number of policy actions spread across key sectors.
These include: power, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture, forestry and land use, and waste.
Some of these sectors are making better progress than others.
In the following section we will discuss the progress sectors are making and any milestones which have already been achieved.
The power industry has made good progress and has experienced the most significant reductions in the last five years.
The UK power industry has reached a number of coal-free milestones. With change being driven by strong policies which favour using renewable energies.
In fact, coal-fired power generation has fallen 40% to just 5% electricity in 2018. This can be deemed a significant success.
Industry has been set an ambitious industrial decarbonisation cluster mission. With the government awarding £26m of funding for nine such projects.
The industry policy actions are detailed below in the net-zero 2050 road map.
The transport sector has the largest volume of emissions of any UK sector with 23% of the total emissions. This is being combatted with more fuel-efficient vehicles as well as biofuels.
Last year emissions dropped by just 2% and aviation emissions continue to be a big sticking point.
The building sector is lagging behind sectors such as power, with policy gaps remaining partly or completely unaddressed.
In fact energy efficient measures are being deployed 20% slower than the recommended rate. Furthermore, implementation of low energy heat pumps remains lower than required.
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY and LAND USE
Despite committee recommended policies being suggested three years ago there has been no change in terms of reducing emissions. Furthermore, tree planting remains well short of targets. A new environment bill should help to improve progress in this sector.
To achieve net-zero emissions the waste sector needs to improve recycling rates by 2025 and prevent biodegradable waste going into landfill by 2035.
Renewable energy’s share of the EU energy mix is moving steadily towards the 2020 target of 20%. Source: Eurostat.
Chapter Six – A Roadmap To Achieving Net-Zero by 2050
Now we have a decent idea of the current progress which has been made across all of the major sectors we can analyse the current roadmap for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
By 2020 electricity must largely be decarbonised, with generation by renewables and the phasing out of coal-powered generation. The power industry will be hugely influential in impacting the global effort to reach net-zero emissions.
Hydrogen and Carbon Capture
The industry should be targeting large scale hydrogen power production with carbon capture and storage (CCS). Carbon capture and storage could be an important method to reduce global CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, whilst assisting the hydrogen industry.
One of the major areas in which buildings should improve in order to successfully contribute to net-zero 2050 is efficiency. For many, electric heat pumps represent the future of heating buildings. Other potential options to replace carbon-based fuels in heating buildings include biogas or hydrogen.
The switch to Electric Vehicles is the major shift in the transport industry that could have the biggest impact on emissions. To reach net-zero emissions by 2050 it will be necessary for HGVs and cars to move away from the combustion of fossil fuels and biofuels to a zero-emissions solution (e.g. hydrogen, battery vehicles).
Waste is a major global issue and one of the key pollutants globally. Therefore, waste reduction also needs to be a priority in order to achieve net-zero. Increasing recycling rates and landfill bans for biodegradable waste are methods that can be adopted to help the waste sector positively impact the net-zero initiative.
Greenhouse Gas Removal
The Further Ambition scenario for the UK involves a substantial amount of CO2 removal from the atmosphere, largely through the use of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Under current accounting rules the emissions credit for that removal is allocated where the CO2 storage occurs, rather than where the biomass is grown. Access to CO2 storage, and the most suitable sites for BECCS plants are therefore the key criteria in sharing this abatement within the UK. Development of policy framework is therefore a key criteria for greenhouse gas removal, also the exploration into alternative options would be beneficial.
Achieving net-zero emissions will require new infrastructure. Development of new infrastructure will be important in opening up new avenues for decarbonisation, for example carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen. Expansion of electric vehicle charging networks and electricity grid capacity will be important in facilitating strong growth in electric vehicles. Decisions on gas grids and HGV infrastructure will also be important in achieving net-zero.
The targets for 2030 in terms of electricity is firstly to expand the electricity system and increase electrification. The second major target is to decarbonise peak generation. Deployment of sustainable bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is the third major target. Deployment will need to start sufficiently early (e.g. by 2030) to build up to a potentially large contribution from BECCS in the longer term.
In order to develop the hydrogen option, significant volumes of low-carbon hydrogen must be produced at one or more carbon capture and storage clusters by 2030, for use in industry and in applications that would not require initial major infrastructure changes. More broadly, plans for early deployment of carbon capture and storage must be delivered with urgency – CCS is a necessity not an option for reaching net-zero emissions.
Widespread electrification in buildings in order to reduce waste and increase efficiency should be introduced. The expansion of heat networks could prove beneficial in achieving net-zero emissions, the expansion will need to continue throughout the 2030s in order to potentially achieve this.
Turn over fleets to zero emission vehicles, bringing forward the switchover to electric vehicles earlier than 2040 will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 and on the pathway to this, improve air quality, and be financially beneficial to the UK.
The targets in industry for 2030 consists mainly of further carbon capture and storage, introducing widespread use of hydrogen and some electrification in certain sectors.
The target for waste is to limit emissions from combustion of non-bio wastes. As well as reduce food waste.
Greenhouse gas removal
Deployment of BECCS in various forms. Deployment of sustainable bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) will need to start sufficiently early (e.g. by 2030) to build up to a potentially large contribution from BECCS in the longer term. The use of other renewals could also prove effective in removing greenhouse gases depending on progress.
In some cases the infrastructure already exists (e.g. the electricity grid), but in other cases, such as hydrogen and CCS, infrastructure is not yet available to provide this support. CCS infrastructure will be important for innovative removal solutions technologies such as direct air capture of CO₂, in addition to deployment of carbon capture and storage in industry, and on fossil and bioenergy generation. The introduction of hydrogen infrastructure could also significantly help achieve Net-Zero.
Chapter Seven – How Can You Help Achieve Net-Zero 2050
We have now reached the stage where positive action around climate change is no longer a choice, it is a necessity. Doing nothing is no longer an option. Everyone must take action and contribute positively in some form.
Given the time-sensitive nature of the climate crisis, achieving net-zero should be the main priority for everyone, including energy companies.
1. Align company objectives
One of the ways in which your company could help with the conservation of our planet is to align your objectives with the Paris Agreement and its central aim of keeping the temperature increase to a 1.5C limit for this century.
2. Communicate your purpose
Make it clear to everyone the reason for changes or innovations and why you feel it was important to make these alterations.
3. Adopt initiatives
28 informative initiatives were announced at the climate action summit in September 2019, such as implementing government policies in line with a 1.5C temperature limit trajectory, which will help investors make sure-footed decisions to trust in the carbon-zero companies of the future. This is just one of the many initiatives your company could support.
4. Collaborate to innovate
Work in cooperation with other companies and individuals in order to create effective and efficient innovations. Remember everyone is after the same thing and the sharing of information and innovations can be the best way for this to happen.
5. Everyone can contribute
Share your ideas – even small adjustments to daily tasks can help, such as turning off equipment when not in use.
6. Engage with experts
There have been great technological and knowledge advances in recent years regarding, not only climate change but also methods for tackling climate change. Using the resources and information gathered by these experts can save time and can be greatly beneficial for you and your organisation.
7. Adopt Efficient Methods
By adopting more efficient methods of production, there are opportunities for both cost reduction and compliance with Carbon Legislation.
8. Monitor energy usage
Using spreadsheets and statistics to monitor your energy usage will ensure that even the smallest changes mean progress. Continual review of your company’s production methods with a focus on renewable energy could help build a culture that shows the world that you care about the customers you provide for, as well as the world they live in.
9. Get smart on climate governance
Climate governance has had a growing influence over businesses and other states. Regulations can be very significant and can require action on your behalf, being aware of climate governance regulations can help your organisation massively.
10. Commit 100%
Doing nothing is no longer an option, action is necessary and for your action to be effective you will need to be 100% committed to reducing your emissions and achieve Net-Zero. By committing fully to a new, eco-friendly business model, the corporate landscape could create a better world.
These are just ten suggestions that can help you and your organisation reduce emissions and achieve Net-Zero, there are also many other options that could also help!
Chapter Eight – What Do The Experts & Scientists Say?
We believe in the power of science and evidence.
In the following chapter we’ve compiled statements and insights from leading climate change experts and scientists so you can have the unfiltered proof of climate change.
“Since 2001 we’ve seen 18 of the 19 warmest years. Ever.” – Skye Gould / Business Insider
“Four of the five hottest years on record have happened since 2015.” – Climate Central
“The planet’s oceans absorb a whopping 93% of the extra heat that greenhouse gases trap in the atmosphere.“ – Reuters / Rodrigo Garrido
“Warming threatens coral reefs worldwide. At present rates, it’s expected that 60% of all coral reefs will be highly or critically threatened by 2030.” – International Geosphere-Biosphere Program, Business Insider
“In 2012 Greenland lost more than 400 billion tons of ice. Which was almost quadruple the amount of loss in 2003.” – Chasing Ice
“Warmer water is contributing to more frequent and intense hurricanes.” – Business Insider
“A warming planet leads to more extreme weather, both cold and hot.” – Business Insider
“In November 2018, the most deadly and destructive wildfire in California’s history started during the rainy season.” – Business Insider
“As the climate warms, California’s wildfire season is getting longer because the snowpack melts sooner.” – Business Insider
“I think the 1.5 degree target is out of reach – we may blow past that by 2030”. – Stephane Mahe / Reuters
“If the world were to meet its most ambitious climate-change goals, average winter temperatures in the Arctic will still rise by up to 5 degrees Celsius by the year 2050.” – Reuters / Thomas Peter
“In the summer of 2012, 97% of the Greenland Ice Sheet’s surface started to melt.” – Climate Central, National Snow & Ice Data Center
“The world’s coastlines may be unrecognisable by 2100 even with moderate sea-level rise.” – Skye Gould / Business Insider
“If we do nothing to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, roughly 5.3 million more acres are projected to burn each year in the US by 2100.” – EPA.gov
For further reading checkout “Net-Zero The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming by Committee on Climate Change”.
Chapter Nine – Net-Zero Frequently Asked Questions
What does net-zero emissions mean?
This refers to the achievement of balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal, or eliminating carbon emissions altogether. If a company is net-zero, the energy used by a company annually is roughly equal to the level of sustainable energy produced.
What is climate change?
Climate change is the increase in extreme weather and sea level temperatures as a result of increasing CO2 emissions.
Is limiting the temperature rise to 1.5°C possible?
Rapid reduction of carbon emissions, changes to reduce meat consumption in our food systems and massive upscaling of land could limit temperature rise to 1.5°C and improve people’s wellbeing.
How will climate change affect people?
Eventually, rising sea levels and temperatures will cause homes to be flooded, animals to become extinct and the global population to experience increased water scarcity.
How is climate change affecting the UK?
In 2003, Britain had the most intense heatwave in over 500 years, which resulted in 2000 deaths and highs of 38°C.
What progress have we already made?
In 2017, the UK powered itself for a full day without the use of coal for the first time since the industrial revolution, and announced plans to phase out all coal-powered power plants by 2025.
How can I cut my own emissions?
Simple changes to your daily routine – such as cycling short journeys instead of driving, reducing the amount of meat consumed in your diet, carpooling when possible or taking public transport.
If everybody makes just simple and small steps, collectively it will have a huge effect across the planet so don’t believe that your actions don’t matter. After all, the reason we are experiencing this is because of our collective small steps!
Chapter Ten – Net-Zero Country Roundup
Climate change is a global issue and we need all countries and organisations to play their part. So, let’s take a look at which countries are currently leading the way in reducing emissions and greenhouse gases.
Denmark had been leading the way in terms of helping to save the planet from climate change. However, in recent times has reversed many environmentally friendly policies. For instance, the decision to invest in highways rather than electrified roads that the government had previously promised.
With the EU headquarters located in Belgium, it needs to be seen as setting an example for fighting climate change. Despite a complicated federal political system which is divided by region, the country is committed to the EU’s target to cut 1990 carbon emission levels by 20% by 2020. Belgium has even started shutting down the last of its coal-powered power plants.
Due to its economic recession years ago Portugal implemented progressive policies that encouraged local arts and decaying architecture rejuvenation. In addition to this, Portugal focussed on creating green jobs and revamping its energy system. This has led to Portugal promoting a low carbon economy and investing in sustainability across different industries and territories.
As an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta is vulnerable to the effects of climate change and sees rising sea levels as a real risk. As such it has transferred its focus to switching from oil usage for energy to solar and gas-fired plants. This has helped Malta to become one of the leaders in the fight against climate change.
Compared to the EU, Luxembourg has shown its clear intention of hitting its goal of reducing CO2 emissions. In fact, between 2015 and 2016 Luxembourg reduced CO2 emissions by 4% compared to the EU average of 0.4%.
Though Morocco currently relies primarily on the use of fossil fuels for energy, experts have identified that Morocco has favourable conditions for wind, solar and hydro power. And the Government is committed to utilising its natural resources.
After suffering a series of debilitating droughts Cyprus has experienced the effects of climate change first hand. As such, it is doing the best job of cutting down on greenhouse gases year on year. Emissions from Cyprus increased by 52% between 1990 and 2012 but have been decreasing by an average of 3% every year since 2008.
The UK experienced its first 24-hour period without coal-powered generation since the start of the Industrial Revolution on April 21, 2017. The UK government is committed to shutting down its last coal-fuelled plant by the year 2025.
Sweden is paving the way in the battle against climate change, with relatively low carbon emissions combined with an efficient recycling system. A recycling system which is so efficient the country needs to import rubbish to keep its recycling plants running. Sweden is aiming to shift 100% of its energy production to renewables by 2040.
However, no country is currently doing enough to fight climate change. This is evidenced by the Climate Change Performance Index in which the top three positions are blank.
Here is a list of the top 17 places in the Climate Change Performance Index as of 2020.
What are companies doing?
In order to tackle climate change 87 companies from a diverse range of sectors, including food, telecommunications and cement, have pledged to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. The aim is to steer multinational corporations to a low carbon future.
Here is a summary of some of the climate change pledges made by some of the 87 companies and organisations.
Nestle, Saint-Gobain and L’Oreal have all pledged to reduce their carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050.
Other businesses, including Nokia, Danone and AstraZeneca, have stopped short of committing to becoming carbon neutral but will align their business operations with limiting the increase of average global temperatures to 1.5°C as outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Further pledgers include:
BT, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Levis Strauss & Co, Mahindra Group, Royal DSM, SAP, Signify, Unilever, Vodafone, Burberry, Singapore’s City Developments Limited, Deutsche Telekom, Electrolux Ericsson Group, Firmenich, IKEA, Schneider Electric, and SUEZ
These 87 businesses are worth a combined total of $2.3trn and their direct emissions equate to 73 coal-fired power plants. This is a gauntlet thrown down to countries’ governments to be more ambitious in their policies and plans for combating climate change.
Chapter Eleven – Net-Zero Conclusion
So there we have it.
If you’ve made it this far you should have a pretty decent understanding of Net-Zero 2050 as well as climate change as a whole.
We’ve established the importance of Net-Zero and, hopefully, provided you with enough information to help you and your organisation play your part in achieving net-zero by 2050.
You should also have an understanding of how each sector is currently performing and what they still need to do to achieve this goal.
Finally we’ve provided you the background and history of climate change so you can see how things have changed over the last few decades.
As this is a live and ongoing issue we’ll continue to update our guide and the progress of countries in reaching the target.
Bonus Chapter – Q & A With Ed Horgan
Ed is the Director of Technical Services at Zenergi and is responsible for service delivery across the division as well as client engagement and product development. He is a Scientist, Chartered Energy Engineer and Chartered Manager with 30+ years experience. Ed has worked on many high profile programmes to create and disseminate energy efficiency best practice and is well known for influencing through guidance, workshops, DVDs/Web tool dissemination and conferences.
1. How are Zenergi/Briar helping their clients reduce their emissions?
Zenergi work closely with clients to assist in all aspects of the journey to net-zero emissions and Energy Freedom. This commences with managing energy procurement and energy monitoring, so the energy, cost and carbon consumption are understood. The understanding of the organisation’s impact and emission of greenhouse gases, both direct and indirect, enables the recognition of the issue. Consideration can then be given to appropriate carbon boundaries and the development of a strategic Carbon Management plan to enable staged progression to net-zero.
We assist with identifying and implementing energy reduction programmes and this commences with the quick wins, often through operational and simple control changes, to deliver immediate financial savings. This moves on to the wide range of opportunities for investment in improving the energy efficiency of the building structures, heating systems and electrical services. There are major opportunities for improvement in all buildings through energy-efficient services and control systems.
Once the energy consumption of the buildings and services have been minimised, this is the time to look at the opportunity for onsite renewable energy and there are a range of renewables that can be applied to most schools; including solar water heating, Solar PV electricity generation and heat pump technologies. The application of other renewables, such as biomass and wind turbines will depend very much on the nature and location of the site.
We also assist many organisations in gaining the required finance for investment and this can be forthcoming from government financial incentive programmes, or private sector investment. These are generally designed to be at least financially neutral to the organisation, with the energy cost savings repaying the financial loans through the life of the project.
Finally, the profound effect of climate change is leading to increasing carbon legislation and reporting and we work with our clients to both achieve compliance and/or maximise delivered financial incentives.
2. Describe the impact of net-zero on the energy industry.
The UK is leading the world in the decarbonisation of the electricity supply network, we have already achieved 50% reduction in carbon intensity through the closing of fossil fuel generation plants and moving to renewable and nuclear solutions. There will be continued government pressure to decarbonise the electricity grid and we can expect continued incentives for renewable energy, battery storage, smart grids, demand side reduction and peak lopping as well as increasing interest in carbon capture technologies and the generation and use of hydrogen fuels.
From our clients’ point of view, this decarbonisation will reduce carbon emissions from electricity use and assist on the path to net-zero, but this will come at a cost with increasing electricity prices and government levies to enable this transition. The focus for our clients must hence be on reducing energy consumption to mitigate the undoubted risk of rising energy prices.
3. How will achieving net-zero impact the public sector?
It will be important that the public sector show leadership in moving towards net-zero. Over the past decade, the public sector have set challenging and ambitious targets within their Carbon Management Plans and I fully expect this to continue. We are already seeing some Universities and Local Authorities considering aspirational targets of net-zero by 2040.
Undoubtedly there will be need for investment, particularly in some of the older buildings and transport to achieve net-zero and this will need to be strategically planned over the next 30 years to deliver net-zero within financial budgets. In order to move forward, I expect there will be a greater emphasis on financial investment, with funding for more radical longer term carbon reduction measures with paybacks, perhaps up to 15 years, or more.
The public sector will also have a role in driving carbon legislation and as we move into a more profound climate crisis, we can expect much more robust policing through the planning regulations, minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) for buildings and this will be supported through incentives to drive action.
4. Will organisations need to make drastic changes to achieve net-zero emissions?
Organisations will need to consider their route map to net-zero emissions. Over the next 30 years, there will be the opportunity to upgrade buildings and replace all of the existing energy infrastructure for low carbon solutions within the natural life cycle for the building services.
There will certainly be some changes in direction and we can already see the drive for a substantial move away from the use of fossil fuels. This process is underway with the rapid expansion of renewable energy and biomass sources. The decarbonisation of the electricity grid is also causing a rethink in direction; for example electrically driven heat pumps can now deliver heat to a building at approximately half of the carbon intensity of natural gas condensing boilers.
We can see further grid decarbonisation, with the substantial reduction in costs for both solar PV and offshore wind turbines and the Government has committed to the Hinckley Point nuclear power station that is planned to be online for 2025 to produce 7% of the UK’s electricity requirements.
In the longer term, it makes sense to move our buildings to be less intensively serviced, removing all unnecessary ventilation and air conditioning systems in favour of natural ventilation and this is supported by the reduction in heat gains from efficient lighting and IT equipment, but this will need changes to build form to reduce solar gains and influencing the human element of understanding comfort.
5. Give an example of how an education establishment can achieve net-zero emissions?
In simple terms, an education establishment needs to progress step wise through a strategic plan to reduce carbon emissions. This commences with operational control and behavioural changes to reduce energy consumption and deliver fast track financial savings at minimal cost. Attention then needs to be given to the built form to reduce heat losses and minimise solar gains, so that the building can be less intensively serviced and the plant loads for heating, cooling and power can be reduced.
The building services and equipment then need to be assessed with a view to energy efficient and low carbon installations, recognising the longer term aspirations of decarbonising the grid and making use of all opportunities for heat recovery and bio generation etc. Energy monitoring and smart metering will be important in order to demonstrate and maintain energy efficient performance.
Once an efficient building and services are achieved, attention can be given to the integration of appropriate renewable energy systems and within education buildings the common solutions include solar hot water heating, solar PV, heat pumps and biomass boilers.
Consideration may also need to be given to transport, carbon emissions or the broader carbon boundaries that the organisation may set within their carbon footprint.
6. Do you think schools will be able to achieve net-zero for 2050?
At the present time there are significant barriers in moving to net-zero, but with continued profound environmental disturbance the costs for mitigating climate change will increase and we will see a stronger appetite for financial investment to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and move to a renewable, sustainable solution. The substantial move towards renewable energy and a low carbon electricity grid will be a key to moving towards net-zero and investments in battery storage, smart grids and the technologies for carbon capture will provide a range of innovative solutions.
At a political level, if the developed world are to adopt low carbon technologies rather than fossil fuel power stations, then there needs to be a greater role for financial transfer and carbon offsetting to achieve net-zero and this will require radical global mobilisation. The concept for verified offsetting through the Clean Development Mechanism is well established and this may form a natural final step to net-zero in the future.
7. If an organisation understands and accepts the need to act, what are the first steps they should take?
Undoubtedly, the first action will be to undertake an energy audit in order to establish the existing energy, carbon and financial footprint for the organisation. This leads on to a carbon management strategy to improve energy efficiency, reduce the carbon footprint and maximise the contribution from renewable energy sources.
Once the energy, carbon and financial business case is recognised, then this often encourages a proactive approach to implementation, reducing exposure to rising energy costs and moving to Energy Freedom.