Britain’s energy regulator Ofgem has published its Decarbonisation Action Plan which sets out nine actions to ensure the country’s energy networks are ready to deliver net zero emissions by 2050 – in line with the government’s decision to enshrine such a goal into law last year.
While Ofgem’s Decarbonisation Action Plan is built around nine key actions, two goals headline the Plan, including building a system that supports the growth of both renewable energy sources and 10 million electric vehicles by 2030, and developing an offshore wind energy grid which will enable a four-fold increase in offshore wind generation by 2030.
“Britain has come a long way,” said Ofgem’s new Chief Executive, Jonathan Brearley, speaking on his first day in office. “It has decarbonised faster than any other major economy, but we must go further, particularly on heat and transport. We are taking an approach that recognises that our role protecting consumers includes achieving net zero.
“As low-carbon renewable energy grows and more transport goes electric, the energy system needs to be more flexible to respond to peaks and troughs in both supply and demand. Our new price controls for network companies will clear the path for this, providing the incentives for investment for the future.
“It is now vital that the energy industry rises to the challenge and demonstrates how it will work with the Government and Ofgem to decarbonise Britain’s energy system at lowest cost.”
The nine actions (below) also highlight the wild discrepancy between how various countries are tackling climate change and an all-but inevitable global energy transition. Even under a contentious Prime Minister and amidst an even more contentious Brexit, the UK’s Government is making significant and active progress towards decarbonising its economy.
The UK’s emissions have fallen by 40% by 1990 – more than any other advanced economy, according to Ofgem. More importantly than past accomplishments, however, is the “significant changes” that Ofgem believe still remain ahead “if we are to continue on the path to meet our 2050 goals.”
“To meet the challenge of net zero, we must now go further and faster, especially in decarbonising transport, heating and our industrial use of energy,” Ofgem write.
The nine actions that form the centre of Ofgem’s Decarbonisation Action Plan and which are intended to ensure the country’s energy networks are ready to deliver net zero emissions, are as follows:
– We will build adaptability into our price controls to ensure network companies invest efficiently and are able to adapt to changes in technology and infrastructure;
– We will set up a regulatory fund to unlock investment in innovative solutions to tackle climate change;
– We will explore, with government and industry, opportunities for greater coordination to enable rapid expansion of an offshore grid at lowest cost;
– We will harness our existing knowledge and expertise to help government and the industry develop cost-effective and low risk options to decarbonise heating;
– We are reviewing the way our energy systems are managed to ensure they are fit for a net-zero future;
– We will create a more flexible electricity system to ensure that consumers will benefit from the lowest cost transition to a reliable net-zero system;
– We will develop a regulatory strategy on electric vehicles to support roll out and maximise the benefits to consumers;
– We will support innovation and experimentation, particularly in the retail market, to create low carbon products and services that will directly benefit consumers;
– We will respond to the need to take big decisions facing a deeply uncertain future by becoming more adaptive in the way we work and in our regulatory approaches.
The nine goals are specifically focused on tackling “the difficult question of how to decarbonise heat and transport and encourage innovation to provide new low carbon products and services for consumers” – building on the country’s existing strong renewable energy development.
“We welcome Ofgem’s commitment to decarbonisation; the steps set out today are vital to enable the four-fold growth of offshore wind in this decade,” said Rebecca Williams, Head of Policy and Regulation at RenewableUK, the UK’s leading renewable energy trade association.
“To get the energy sector on track for net zero, we need to ensure that Ofgem’s decisions support rapid decarbonisation and investment in renewables.
The next step forward will be for Ofgem to set out how the grid should operate to meet net zero emissions, including the way renewables are charged for access. We look forward to working with Ofgem on this.”