Industrial Decarbonisation and Energy Efficiency Roadmaps to 2050

The Government has published a set of Roadmaps that chart a low-carbon future for British industry.  Developed with industry and others, they are intended to allow industry to make its contribution to meeting our national goals to limit greenhouse gas emissions – and to remain profitable in a competitive world.

Industry is directly responsible for around a ¼ of total UK GHG emissions, and consumes 1/3 of the electricity produced. The UK’s economic structure has shifted away from manufacturing and the recent recession has hit some businesses hard.  However, we have also seen some industrial sectors grow, such as chemicals, food and drink and motor manufacture just to name a few. We must find ways to produce the goods that we need and meet our carbon budgets.

Decarbonising industry is not easy though. Industry is not like other sectors. Every industrial sector, indeed every site, is different: a large integrated steel plant, a petro-chemical refinery, a paper mill, a ceramics kiln. Each of these sectors will need to develop and deploy a diverse range of energy efficiency, fuel switching or carbon capture technologies to become low-carbon. Some sectors may need to completely change the way in which they produce their product. With all this complexity there will not be a single silver bullet answer, we will need a kaleidoscopic solution for this challenge.

On top of this, much of our industry competes internationally. We need our industry to quickly move forward and cut emissions but we don’t want this to make businesses uncompetitive and move abroad. ‘Carbon leakage’ is not the answer.

In 2013, to help inform this journey, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) commissioned Parsons Brinckerhoff and DNV GL to develop a series of decarbonisation roadmaps to 2050 for eight energy-intensive industries: cement, ceramics, chemicals, food and drink, glass, iron and steel, oil refining, and paper and pulp.

The purpose of these roadmaps is to understand the nature of each of the sectors, recognise the current and future market challenges, develop potential decarbonisation pathways, understand the barriers and enablers to decarbonisation, and investigate possible next steps. The complexity of these sectors means that the precise path taken by each company will be an individual decision based on a number of market and regulatory pressures. The roadmaps are not an “answer”; they are a way to bring the thinking together for each company, and government, to consider.

The process of developing the roadmaps may have been as important as the final results. The collaboration between business managers, technical experts and policy makers help each to understand the size of the challenge, the barriers in the way, and to start discussing ways in which all can take account of market pressures, as well as wider national and international goals that follow from the threat of climate change.

At the CCC, we will be reviewing the material to see how the analysis can feed in to our Progress Report to Parliament in June and our advice on the 5th Carbon Budget by the end of the year.

We welcome any further evidence on this issue. We have, separately, issued a Call for Evidence about a range of issues related to our advice on the fifth carbon budget. We would appreciate views on the roadmaps and the wider topics it covers.