National Infrastructure Commission: Renewables could meet two-thirds of UK’s energy demand by 2030

By Paul Homewood


h/t Robin Guenier




According to the Commission’s ‘Renewables, Recovery and Reaching Net-Zero’ report, published today (11 August), there is “no material cost impact, either over the short or long term”, of deploying renewables at an accelerated pace, in line with the nation’s net-zero target. The Commission had previously said, in line with the UK’s original Climate Change Act target of reducing net emissions by 80% by 2050, that renewables should account for 50% of consumption by mid-century.

By 2050, electricity generation should stand at a minimum of 465 TWh, compared to 345TWh in 2019. This will account for the electrification of sectors such as heat and transport, as well as population growth and digitisation.

The report models a variety of scenarios in which the 65% quota is met by 2050, concluding that between 86GW and 99GW of generation must be deployed by the end of 2030 – including a minimum of 40GW of offshore wind. The UK’s Offshore Wind Sector Deal is notably designed to ensure that 30% of electricity generated in the UK comes from offshore wind arrays by 2030, and that capacity increases fivefold through to 2050.

Offshore wind should be complemented with large-scale solar and energy storage, the report recommends, to account for varied generation patterns. It does not take biomass into account, nor nuclear, and recommends that the Government approves a maximum of one new nuclear plant, other than Hinkley C, before 2025.–Renewables-could-meet-two-thirds-of-UK-s-energy-demand-by-2030/


Surprisingly, for a news site that is supposed to be an expert in these matters, EDIE don’t seem to know the difference between ENERGY and ELECTRICITY. Needless to say, the NIC are planning for two thirds of electricity from renewables, nor two thirds of energy!

The NIC plan is the usual mix of wishful thinking, but this is the first time I have seen a detailed breakdown of total system costs, which include both construction and running costs.

Their full dataset is available here, and is based around different scenarios, though they are all similar through to 2030. My summary is taken from the high electrification scenario, which targets 80% renewable generation by 2050.

Excluding generation costs, annual system costs are projected to rise from £6.9bn currently, to £15.3bn in 2030 (all at 2016 prices):




These essentially reflect the cost of running the grid, which will keep on rising to £25.3 bn by 2050, an increase of £18.4bn from today. They are, in a way, the hidden costs of decarbonising the electricity supply, and come on top of the subsidies for renewables we are familiar with.

Astonishingly, however, the NIC claim that renewable subsidies will sharply fall after 2028:



These numbers simply do not add up, unless the NIC have assumed much higher wholesale prices. Either way, of course, consumers are shafted.

The OBR are currently projecting that subsidies will carry on rising until 2024/25, when they will amount to £11.4bn – ie ROCs, CfDs and FITs:



CfDs run for 15 years, which means that none will expire until well after 2030. Furthermore, when Hinckley Point comes on stream it will add £2bn to the total.

Renewable Obligations last for the lifetime of the asset, so these will still be substantial throughout the 2030s, as will FITs.

In all likelihood, therefore, renewable subsidies will be costing consumers up to £15bn a year by 2030, with little respite after that until after 2040.

[I have by the way asked the NIC for their detailed workings here. My guess is that they have assumed that rocketing carbon taxes will force up wholesale power prices, thus making subsidies appear lower).


As with projections from the National Grid and the Committee on Climate Change, the NIC seem to have simply picked renewable capacity targets off the top of their heads, with little thought of how it could be integrated in the overall grid.

About the only mention of the problem is this:



While we know the CCC live in cloud cuckoo land, it is utterly disgraceful that the supposed technical experts of the NIC should gloss over the potentially catastrophic problems facing the nation’s electricity supply, which would be caused by their recommendations.

As we know, flexible demand may be fine for evening out the peaks and troughs in a day but useless for longer periods of shortfall. And reliance on imported electricity is hugely risky, not least when the rest of northern Europe will likely also be short of wind generation.

Which leaves us with those “storage technologies”. And here is what the NIC suggest:


So in 2050, when we are reliant on renewables for 80% of our electricity, we will have storage capacity available of 55.7 GWh.

The plan by then is that we will need 596 TWh of generation a year, or 1.63 TWh a day. When the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine, we would therefore have enough storage to last us 49 minutes.

Heaven knows what we are supposed to do for the rest of the winter.


August 13, 2020 at 02:27PM

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