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How to deliver a reliable decarbonised power system

Coal-fired power plant (Credit: Przemyslaw Nieprzecki / Alamy Stock Photo)

3 min read

A reliable and resilient decarbonised power system by 2035 is achievable but it will require swift deployment of critical infrastructure, with barriers to this removed and policy gaps remedied. It can only be achieved through a co-ordinated and strategic approach to delivery and government leadership is essential.

The good news is that last week the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published a report titled Delivering a reliable decarbonised power system, which laid out our suggestions on how to do it – including 25 policy recommendations. Whilst I wouldn’t be so blithe as to say we’ve made it easy – the scale of the task is still immense – it is now not possible for the government to say there’s no roadmap.

It is an immediate priority for the new Department of Energy Security and Net Zero to publish a comprehensive long-term strategy for the delivery of a decarbonised resilient power system by 2035 this year. The government agreed to the target of a decarbonised power system by 2035 in 2021 but seems to have stopped short of taking it up as a key pillar of their administration. It’s worth noting there have been positive steps taken, but without being able to see how these pieces fit into the whole it’s hard to analyse their impact. A plan would allow the country to see where we’re succeeding and when the barriers to change are.

The CCC has also suggested that the government 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 United Kingdom. It would be a shame on us all if the reason we failed to deliver this transition is not because of lack of knowledge, technology, or innovation but because of red tape and over-complicated processes. We must not be held back from rebuilding the backbone of our electricity system, and consequently our society at large by procedure.

We must not be held back from rebuilding the backbone of our electricity system

It’s important to note that this doesn’t all fall on the new Department of Energy Security and Net Zero. The energy system needs to work now and in a future changing climate, so resilience must be built into the system design for all future energy infrastructure being built. If we don’t, there is a significant risk of locking in increased climate vulnerability or additional costs later on. This responsibility falls on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is due to publish the third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3) later this year. It must include what the government’s vision for what a well-adapted and climate-resilient energy system will look like.

The scale of build required is unprecedented and will require joined-up thinking between the energy industry and the government. Strategic planning and investment must have a view to delivering the infrastructure required to meet our climate change targets and ensuring that it is resilient to the changing climate. We are behind where we need to be but it’s not too late to catch up. I hope this government will take up the challenge and take our recommendations forward with the urgency they deserve.

Lord Deben, Conservative peer and chair of the Climate Change Committee

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