IEA: UK makes major progress reducing emissions

The UK has made major progress in reducing emissions, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest country review. “The United Kingdom has shown real results in terms of boosting investment in renewables, reducing emissions, and maintaining energy security,” said Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director. “It now faces the challenge of continuing its transition while ensuring the resilience of its energy system.”

Jun 11th, 2019

The UK has made major progress in reducing emissions, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest country review.

“The United Kingdom has shown real results in terms of boosting investment in renewables, reducing emissions, and maintaining energy security,” said Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director. “It now faces the challenge of continuing its transition while ensuring the resilience of its energy system.”

In 2017, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the UK reached the lowest levels since 1888. The reduction was achieved in part through renewable investment following the UK’s Electricity Market Reform (EMR). By 2030, the UK is forecast to see its share of variable renewables pass 50%. Amid this rapid change to a power system with a high share of wind and solar, market rules will need to accommodate flexibility, including interconnections, storage, and demand response to maintain electricity security, the report said.

The UK has cut emissions by more than 40% since 1990 while growing its economy, said Chris Skidmore, UK Energy and Clean Growth Minister. The UK is “now on a path to become the first major economy to legislate for net-zero emissions to end our contribution to global warming entirely,” he said.

Outside of the UK power sector, the report said, there is great potential for improvements. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change will require the scaling up of clean energy investment in the transportation and heating sectors, a major focus of the government’s Clean Growth Strategy.

According to the report, action in these sectors will require a broad mix of solutions including technology innovation and electrification, stimulated by fiscal policies and energy efficiency that can help offset higher power costs. Finally, streamlining regulation in electricity wholesale and retail markets will be critical to ensure more effective and competitive markets. This will support electrification for the longer-term decarbonization of the economy by 2050.

The report said the Maximizing Economic Recovery Strategy, led by the new Oil and Gas Authority, has stabilized oil and gas production in the North Sea, but the eventual decline of domestic production will make the UK more dependent on imports. That decline, combined with slow progress in adding new nuclear capacity as well as retirements of existing coal and nuclear plants, means imports of electricity and natural gas will remain critical for UK in the medium term.

The review also highlights international collaborative efforts by the UK government to strengthen global energy governance, global climate action, and technology innovation. These were illustrated by the joint international summit on carbon capture, utilization, and storage that the UK and the IEA held in Edinburgh in 2018; the UK’s leadership of Mission Innovation as the Chair and Head of the Secretariat; and the UK’s role as a founding member of the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Program, which supports key emerging economies in their energy transitions.

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