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Britain to miss net zero target despite billions of investment, warn analysts

UK Net Zero
UK Net Zero

Britain will still depend on oil and gas for a third of its energy in its net zero target year of 2050 despite billions of pounds of investment, according to a report from leading energy analysts.

The UK is massively behind schedule with its plans for offshore wind farms, nuclear power stations, solar farms and other low carbon energy sources needed to replace oil and gas, experts at DNV said.

It means that by 2050 – when successive prime ministers have pledged the UK will hit net zero – it will still be pouring 125m tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, according to the DNV report.

The analysts said: “The UK looks set to miss both its ‘Net Zero by 2050’ target and its decarbonization commitments for 2030 … Our forecast shows that the UK’s annual emissions will amount to some 125m tonnes of CO2e in 2050.”

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Their report pinpointed three key sources for future emissions, with transport at the top of the list.

It said: “In transport, a sizeable proportion of vehicles, particularly commercial ones, will continue to be fossil-fuelled in 2050. Aviation will continue to emit significantly due to the slow penetration of low-carbon fuels by 2050.”

The rate at which the UK is switching heating for buildings from gas to electric was also far too slow, said the report.

It said that natural gas will still comprise over 50pc of final energy demand for buildings in 2050, adding: “There is clearly an opportunity for government to act more forcefully on the decarbonization of domestic heating.”

DNV’s study showed that the UK currently gets about 80pc of its total energy from oil and gas – roughly the same proportion as two decades ago.

By 2031 this will have declined only slightly, to around 70pc of  total energy – a drop of just 10pc – despite spending £46bn on Hinkley Point C nuclear power station and billions of pounds more on windfarms, solar farms and battery storage systems.

Hari Vamadevan, UK regional director for energy at DNV, said: “Without immediate action the UK will fail to deliver on its climate commitments, fall behind in the global race to decarbonise and  miss out on many of the benefits that switching to a low-carbon system will bring.

“But, by putting the correct policy levers in place, there is still time for industry and government to deliver a transition that is good for business, good for consumers and good for the planet.”

DNV’s warnings are supported by separate research from Energy UK, the trade body for power suppliers, showing the UK faces a serious shortfall in its 2030 offshore wind targets.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, has set a target of expanding offshore wind from 14 Gigawatts (GW) to 50GW by 2030. It means installing one or two turbines every day for the next six years.

He tried to encourage new construction by offering a minimum price for the power delivered by new windfarms – the Contracts for Difference system – which was successful up to 2022.

Last year, however, Grant Shapps, the then energy secretary, offered such a low minimum price for power from new wind farms that no companies were willing to build them. This has put construction back by years and makes it almost certain the UK will miss its 2030 target.

Energy UK’s analysis has found that the UK will fall short of its 2030 target by at least 7GW – equivalent to two new nuclear power stations.The lost turbines would power 25pc of UK homes or cut out emissions equivalent to those produced by the whole of Essex.

Adam Berman, Energy UK’s deputy director, said the government must re-establish the UK’s lead.

He said: “Offshore wind plays a vital role in the Government’s clean energy ambitions … Delivering an ambitious renewables programme in line with the Government’s targets means being realistic about the economic and market conditions that potential investors are facing.”

The energy department was contacted for comment.