CCS, Hydrogen Won’t Be Ready by 2050, UK Academics Warn
Neither carbon capture and storage (CCS) nor the hydrogen economy can scale up fast enough to play a significant part in decarbonizing the UK economy by mid-century, a consortium of government-funded academics warned last week.
“Relying on breakthrough technologies to achieve zero emissions by 2050 is risky and delays action,” the group said in a report to parliamentarians. “Instead, with today’s technologies, we can meet the target for almost all activities, but we have no substitutes for cement, shipping, flying, lamb, or beef.”
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Even a few years ago, the UK government “had hoped both technologies [CCS and hydrogen] would contribute to emissions reductions required by 2050,” the British Broadcasting Corporation reports. “A few years ago, government economists predicted that gas plants equipped with CCS would be producing 30% of the UK’s clean electricity in the future,” while “nuclear and renewables would produce another 30% each.”
But now, the academics from Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Bath, and Imperial College London have shifted their position.
“The equation radically changed because the nuclear renaissance didn’t happen; the government pulled funding from CCS projects; and the cost of renewables plummeted,” BBC explains. “The government has now offered new CCS funds—but for tackling carbon emissions from industrial clusters, rather than from power generation.”
“The problem with delivering climate mitigation is the tension between the government wanting to deliver solutions based on technology, and protesters and scientists asking for fast action that bites much more rapidly than we can bring new technologies into place,” said lead author Julian Allwood, a Cambridge University professor of engineering and the environment.
“So although new technologies may become relevant by 2100, the number operating at scale in 2050 will be very few. Probably we’ve got to deliver on climate change with today’s technologies.”
That conclusion “contradicts several comments from the Prime Minister putting faith in technology to deliver 2050 targets. Recently, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said no one needed to fly less, and that technology would solve the problem,” BBC says.
“The government has committed to having CCS in industrial clusters from the second half of the 2020s and CCS at scale by 2030,” while the net-zero scenario produced by the government’s Committee on Climate Change “includes 75 to 175 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 being captured and stored per year by 2050.”