Decarbonising UK heavy industries requires significant acceleration of clean energy generation

Posted on 03 May 2023

​According to a recent report from the Aldersgate Group, the UK must install approximately 200GW of low-carbon energy infrastructure over the next 12 years, if it is to achieve its target of decarbonising power and halting heavy industry’s dependence on expensive fossil fuels.

The study, published in partnership with the University College of London (UCL), summarises the policy measures needed to reach a decarbonised power system and enable the electrification of heavy industries by net-zero goals by 2050. The study highlights how sectors like cement, steel and glass need to accelerate their reliance on clean and affordable electricity to speed up decarbonisation and remain competitive.

To enable net zero by 2050, UK industrial emissions must decline by 70% by 2035 and 90% by 2040. In many heavy industries, electrifying manufacturing processes that depend on fossil fuels is critical. Clean electricity is also vital in supporting other areas such as hydrogen production and operating processes associated with carbon capture and storage. In nearly every case, access to high volumes of low-carbon and affordable electricity will be essential to enable the decarbonisation of heavy industries and their ability to be competitive in the transition to net zero emissions.

Laith Whitwhat, the senior policy officer of Aldersgate Group, explains that Decarbonising industrial processes could be challenging, but one that provides UK industries, like steel and cement, the chance to compete in new and emerging markets for greener products. This means new jobs, accelerated growth, and exports instead of an ongoing battle to compete with high-carbon imports and enabling this move requires low-carbon electricity.

Whitwhat explains that the report highlights the policies required to decarbonise the UK electricity supply and speed up the rollout of new industrial infrastructure through which it will flow. Niki Kesharaju, the future markets manager for heat decarbonisation at National Grid, added that decarbonising energy-intensive industries will be critical to enable the UK to achieve its net zero targets, and the suggestions in this report included the necessary action to drive progress. The report comes soon after the UK government’s ‘Green Day’ of new policies, which some have said lacked enough focus on heavy industries.

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