UK’s decarbonisation efforts are worsening by the year, new report says

Deployment of renewable energy projects, such as offshore wind, is repeatedly falling behind in the UK

The annual clean power deployment requirement for the UK to reach its 2035 decarbonisation targets has more than tripled in the last three years due to continued failure to meet targets, a new report has claimed.

Engineering consultancy Atkins Realis said in its ‘Countdown to 2035’ white paper, released today, that the UK must annually connect 15.5GW of new generating capacity until 2035 to meet its decarbonised grid goals, contrasting sharply with the mere 4.5GW connected in 2022.

This is as a result of the compounding effect stemming from persistent shortfalls in the build rate over the last few years.

The company added that a 15 per cent year-on-year increase in the build rate would lead to a 25GW/year peak rate in 2035; roughly five times the 2022 rate and four times the UK’s previous highest recorded build rate of 6.5GW in 2017.

“The slower we ramp up the build rate now, the greater the challenge will be to meet ‘peak output’ requirements in the future,” the report continues, emphasising the need for a “laser-like focus” on decarbonisation projects that are realistic rather than theoretically feasible.

The UK’s renewable infrastructure construction is expected to ramp up aggressively in the coming years while its net zero targets remain, at the very least, within reach.

Nuclear, too, will be a crucial driver of grid decarbonisation, as the government’s sector roadmap – a document released last week outlining plans for another major power station and small module reactor infrastructure – attests.

Construction of the major reactor underpins the government’s big bet on nuclear and industry sources have previously told City A.M. that the betting favourite contractor to deliver the project is the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

Though the delivery of a nuclear power plant is known to be very slow, Sam Dumitriu, head of policy at economic think tank Britain Remade, says it will likely be slower than that.

A four-year, unavoidable approvals process is mandated before a planning application for a new large reactor can even be lodged – the proposed project has not yet been submitted for this stage.

The Korean firm may be one of the only financially viable routes to building the reactor too.

Électricité de France (EDF), which operates all five of the UK’s active nuclear power stations, are building what will become the largest reactor in the UK, Hinkley Point C, at an estimated cost of £32bn.

Dimitriu estimates this to be the second most expensive nuclear power station built in history on a pound-per-megawatt basis.

Where he sees greater value, in lockstep with many other voices in the nuclear industry, is decarbonisation through the delivery of small module reactors (SMRs) – a process currently hamstrung by truncated government approvals.

Should the UK be able to approve SMRs based on unilateral recognition from the U.S. or French nuclear bodies, more nuclear power will be able to be delivered to the grid quickly.


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