Switching to low-carbon fuels

There are many opportunities to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We can increase the amount of electricity generated through low-carbon technologies such as wind and solar power, relying less on gas and coal.

For generating heat, there are opportunities to use a variety of low-carbon technologies such as ground-source, or air-source, heat pumps (capturing heat from the ground or the air). The use of biomass (biological material used as fuel) can also play a role, especially in industry, if it is derived from sustainable sources.

In powering our vehicles, there is potential for some blending of biofuels with petrol and diesel. And, increasingly, the use of electricity (or potentially hydrogen in the longer term) produced from low-carbon sources offers an opportunity for more radical decarbonisation of road transport.

Low-carbon technologies

There are a range of promising low-carbon technologies and systems:

  • Renewables. These energy resources derived from sustainable natural processes, including solar, wind and tidal, can be used to generate electricity, provide heat or even as transport fuel. In the UK, energy from renewables accounted for 8.9% of total final energy consumption in 2016.
  • Nuclear power has been a key source of electricity generation since the 1970s. The UK currently has 15 reactors contributing around 22% of power generation in 2016. With the majority of stations in the UK expected to retire by the early 2030s, investment in replacement low-carbon generation will be important for the UK’s decarbonisation.
  • Carbon Capture and Storage technology captures carbon dioxide emitted by large installations (such as industrial processes, or from burning fossil fuels or biomass) and stores it in secure spaces, such as geological formations deep underground or under the seabed. CCS has not yet been successfully deployed on a commercial scale in the UK but it would allow generation of electricity using fossil fuels with up to 90% less emissions than unabated use of fossil fuels in which emissions are not captured. It could also provide deep cuts in emissions from industrial sources, and could provide a source of low-carbon hydrogen for use in vehicles or heating.
  • Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy and refers to solid, liquid or gas fuels made from biomass feedstocks (e.g. maize or wood). In 2016, energy from bioenergy in the UK accounted for 8.6% of electricity generation, 6.1% of heat and 3.1% of transport. Around 4% of UK heating came from bioenergy, not including wood burnt on open fires.
  • Electrification is the process of moving from other energy sources to low-carbon sources of electricity. Emissions from the power sector are falling and electrifying our vehicles and heating will help to reduce UK carbon emissions further.