Offshore wind ‘to supply almost half of UK's power in 2050’

National Grid report shows that renewables will provide 80% of electricity by mid-century, under its net zero-carbon ‘Two Degrees’ scenario

Offshore wind will supply almost half of the Britain’s electricity in 2050, if the country is to become net zero-carbon, according to the new Future Energy Scenarios report by UK network operator National Grid.

Under National Grid’s “Two Degrees” scenario, offshore wind would supply 46% of the nation’s electricity (210.4TWh) in 2050, with onshore wind responsible for 12.6% (57.6TWh) and solar providing 8.7% (39.6TWh).

In terms of capacity, this equates to 53.3GW of offshore wind, 14.8GW of “transmission-connected onshore wind”, 10.6GW of “decentralised wind”, and 42GW of solar. (Recharge understands that “decentralised wind” refers to micro generation and wind projects supplying power directly to green hydrogen production without a grid connection.)

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The UK government's independent advisory body, Committee on Climate Change, recently called for 75GW of offshore wind by 2050.

Marine energy, biomass, hydro and biogas would supply a further 11.5% (52.7TWh) in total under the Two Degrees scenario. Including waste (3.3TWh), this adds up to renewable energy providing 80% of the UK's power in 2050.

Nuclear would also supply 20.2% (92.4TWh) with natural gas adding 1.2% (5.5TWh). Coal generation will stop in the UK in 2023.

Carbon capture would be required to offset emissions from natural gas — which would also be used to some extent for heating in 2050 — with 37 million tonnes of CO2 captured from biomass generation each year to provide “negative emissions”.

Clean hydrogen — for heating, transport, industrial processes and energy storage — would be required, but National Grid envisages that more than 90.4% of this would be produced from natural gas (376.6TWh equivalent) and only 9.6% (40TWh) from electricity via water electrolysers.

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Batteries from more than 35 million electric vehicles in 2050 “will provide flexibility and integrate a higher level of renewable generation on the system”, the report adds.

“Reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is achievable,” says National Grid. “However, this requires immediate action across all key technologies and policy areas.”

The UK government is expected to unveil an energy white paper by the end of this year to explain how the country can reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Note: Much of the data in this article comes from the Future Energy Scenarios' accompanying Data Workbook, which shows the data underlying the report.

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