COP26 and the future of energy

Net zero, carbon neutral, carbon negative – they’re all terms we’re hearing more and more in newspapers and social media channels, as COP26 nears and organisations across the globe announce their strategic plans to play their part in building a greener future.

As final plans are made ahead of the much anticipated COP26 UN climate change conference commencing on 31st October, it’s clear that a bold UK energy transition plan will play centre stage in meeting our commitment to be net zero by 2050.

Launched recently, the Government’s Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener, announced funding and support schemes to achieve the ambition of the UK being powered completely by green energy and decarbonised by 2035.

We take a dive into the green energy sectors and initiatives that make up the Build Back Greener plan.

Power generation

From cutting edge new power generation techniques, to extending the growing renewables infrastructure across the UK, focusing on greener energy sources will be pivotal to achieve net zero.

Within the renewables space, offshore wind farm projects continue to be developed at pace – including EDF and ESB International’s Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) farm off the coast of Fife and SSE Renewable, Equnior and Eni’s Dogger Bank development on the North East coast.

Advancements and initiatives such as Small Modular Reactors (SMR) and the UK’s first prototype fusion energy plant are making headlines as the potential future of power generation. With a keen appetite to deploy smarter, scalable nuclear technology, SMRs could provide a low-carbon energy resource that can be transported to site on a truck following assembly line production. In recent weeks, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEE) announced five sites shortlisted to potentially be the home for the STEP fusion plant – the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production – Ardeer (North Ayrshire), Goole (East Riding of Yorkshire), Moorside (Cumbria), Ratcliffe-on-Soar (Nottinghamshire) and the Severn Edge bid (South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire).

Whilst the Build Back Green plan also draws reference to the Government’s commitment to facilitate an investment decision for the construction of another large-scale nuclear power station, such as the Sizewell C power station currently seeking planning permission. The NRL Group is also committed to support this important nuclear new build project, as members of the Sizewell C Consortium.

Hydrogen and Carbon Capture

The Government’s Industrial Decarbonisation and Hydrogen Revenue Support (IDHRS) scheme has been set up to support new industrial carbon capture and hydrogen business models. It’s part of the plan to deliver 5GW of hydrogen production capacity by 2030 and further cutting emissions from oil and gas.

Carbon capture and storage projects such as the East Coast Cluster in Hull and Middlesbrough and HyNet in Liverpool Bay have recently received fast track backing from the Government to progress the initiatives. Whilst future potential power generation projects such as Keadby 3, could hold the possibility of delivering up to 15% of the 10MT of carbon capture the Government has set targets for annually for 2030.

By capturing the CO2 created during industrial processes and power generation and transporting them to utilise or permanently store it deep underground, highly industrial areas such as Teesside have the potential to become carbon neutral.

The key green energy players at COP26

Energy sector leaders SSE, ScottishPower and National Grid have signed up as principal partners of COP26, in support of the UK’s current and future green energy plans.

At the conference when world leaders come together, topics such as accelerating the global transition to clean energy will be at the top of the list of priorities expected to be tackled.

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