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Delivering a reliable decarbonised power system

1. Outline

This report illustrates what a reliable, resilient, decarbonised electricity supply system could look like in 2035, and the steps required to achieve it. It provides new insights and new advice on how such a system can be achieved by 2035, using real weather data and hourly analysis of Great Britain’s power system (Northern Ireland is part of the all-Ireland system). It also looks at the implications for hydrogen.

2. Key messages

  • A reliable, resilient, decarbonised electricity system can be delivered by 2035. This is needed to deliver emissions reductions in line with the path to Net Zero, while ensuring a reliable and resilient electricity supply and substantially reducing the UK’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.
  • The Government must give equal focus to low-carbon flexible solutions as to the full delivery of its existing renewables and nuclear commitments.
  • Decarbonising and expanding the electricity system will rapidly reduce the UK’s dependence on imported oil and gas, reducing in turn our exposure to volatile international prices.
  • Transforming the electricity system provides opportunities for growth. Currently, over 31,000 people across the UK are employed in offshore wind alone – this is set to rise to 97,000 by 2030, driven by £155 billion in private investment, with further investment and employment in solar and onshore wind.

4. Recommendations

Table 1
Recommendations - Delivering a reliable decarbonised power system

PriorityCh 2, section 3Publish a comprehensive long-term strategy for the delivery of a decarbonised, resilient, power system by 2035.DESNZ
PriorityCh 4, section 2 (d)Set out, in NAP3, the Government’s vision for what a well-adapted and climate resilient energy system will look like.Defra
PriorityCh 2, section 3 (a)Clarify urgently and formalise the institutional responsibilities of the FSO, Ofgem and ministers, for strategic planning and delivery of the decarbonised, resilient system.DESNZ
PriorityCh 4, section 2 (d)Conduct a review of governance arrangements for resilience to climate hazards in the energy system, to ensure they are fit for the new expanded and more diverse low-carbon system given increasing societal reliance on electricity.DESNZ, Ofgem
PriorityCh 2, section 3 (a)Develop a long-term cross-sectoral infrastructure strategy to adapt and build respectively the distribution of liquid and gaseous fuels, electricity, CO2 and heat networks over the next decade.DESNZ, FSO
(by 2025 at the latest)
PriorityCh 2, section 3 (d)Identify a set of low-regret electricity and hydrogen investments that can proceed now.DESNZ, FSO
(by 2024 at the latest)
PriorityCh 2, section 3 (a)Create a Minister-led infrastructure delivery group, advised by the new Electricity Networks Commissioner, to ensure enabling initiatives for energy infrastructure build are taken forward at pace, and necessary policy changes are implemented across the UK, to deliver a decarbonised and resilient power system by 2035.Electricity Networks Commissioner, UK, Scottish & Welsh Governments
PriorityCh 2, section 3 (b)Through the Review of Electricity Market Arrangements, develop a strategy as soon as possible on market design for the medium- to long-term for a fully decarbonised, resilient electricity system in the 2030s and onwards.DESNZ
PriorityCh 3, section 2 (e)Finalise funding mechanisms and allocate funding to support the development of 10 GW of low-carbon hydrogen production by 2030.DESNZ
PriorityCh 3, section 3 (c)Fast-track the development of new business models for hydrogen transportation and storage infrastructure, with a view to keeping options open for larger scale hydrogen use by 2030.DESNZ
Ch 1, section 2Identify and address potential key supply chain bottlenecks for delivering up to 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030.DESNZ
Ch 1, section 2Ensure that large-scale unabated biomass power plants are converted to BECCS as early as feasible, and are not given extended contracts to operate unabated at high load factors beyond 2027.DESNZ
Ch 2, section 2Ensure new gas plant are genuinely CCS- and / or hydrogen-ready as soon as possible and by 2025 at the latest.DESNZ
(2025 at the latest)
Ch 2, section 2Ensure that future system design explicitly plans for the range of climate hazards that will face the energy system over its lifetime.DESNZ, Ofgem, FSO (Ongoing)
Ch 2, section 3Publish the second transitional Centralised Strategic Network Plan, identifying the strategic investments required for a decarbonised and resilient electricity system in 2035 and delivery of Net Zero.ESO / FSO
Ch 3, section 2 (e)Finalise and deliver the CCUS Transport and Storage Regulatory Investment business model, consistent with the Government's ambition to establish at least two CCS transport and storage clusters in the mid-2020sDESNZ
(Q1 2023)
Ch 3, section 2 (e)De-risk the future Carbon Capture and Storage project pipeline by launching the next cluster selection process as soon as possible.DESNZ
(Q1 2023)
Ch 3, section 2 (e)Publish a plan for CO2 transport from dispersed sites.DESNZ
Ch 3, section 3 (c)Publish a site-specific plan for distribution and storage of hydrogen and other low-carbon infrastructure outside of clusters.DESNZ
(Q1 2023)
Ch 4, section 1 (c)Commission further research to improve understanding of how climate change is altering key weather hazards that will impact the energy system.DESNZ, UKRI, Defra
Ch 4, section 1 (c)Coordinate a systematic assessment of risks posed from cascading impacts across multiple sectors due to failures of the decarbonised energy system as part of the next round of the Adaptation Reporting Power.Defra
Ch 4, section 1 (c)Require all energy system organisations to report under the Adaptation Reporting Power.Defra
Ch 4, section 2 (a)Develop a pathway to setting appropriate minimum resilience standards (both at asset and system level) to relevant climate hazards identified in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA), covering all relevant parties.DESNZ, Cabinet Office
(by 2028 at latest)
Ch 4, section 2 (d)Designate Ofgem and parties responsible now and in the future (including the new Future System Operator) for the maintenance of energy sector codes and standards, with a clear mandate to ensure climate and weather resilience.DESNZ, Ofgem
Ch 4, section 2 (d)Extend requirements for reporting on outages to include the cause, duration and magnitude of all outages.Ofgem, DESNZ