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Carbon Plan pathway: higher nuclear, less energy efficiency

Energy saving per capita: 31% Electricity demand: 610 TWh

The “Higher nuclear; less energy efficiency” future describes what we might do if it proved difficult to deploynewer technologies (such as carbon capture and storage technology in power and industry) and the extent to which individuals change their behaviour and energy consumption patterns to reduce energy demand.

What is the sectoral picture in 2050?

‘Higher nuclear; less energy efficiency’ relies heavily on nuclear power (75 GW of installed capacity) with the lowest deployment of CCS, wind and other renewable generation in 2050 across the three futures. Although deployment is relatively low, there is still 20 GW of wind capacity present on the grid, as the UK’s natural advantages and previous investments in earlier years mean that some installations will remain cost-effective.

5.6 million solid walls and 6.9 million cavity walls are insulated. Average internal temperatures by 2050 are half a degree higher than today. Domestic and commercial heating is largely decarbonised through a combination of air- and ground-source heat pumps, while 10% of demand is met through local-level district heating.

CCS is not successful at commercial scale, and alongside steady growth this means that industry accounts for a large proportion of remaining emissions, making up more than half of the total by 2050.

80% of cars are ultra-low-emission vehicles (ULEV), powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. People travel 6% further than today, but there is a gradual movement away from using cars towards more efficient public transport. 80% of distance travelled domestically is made by cars in 2050, 3% lower than in 2007.

As it is not possible for CCS to generate ‘negative emissions’ in this scenario, sustainable bioenergy is extremely important for decarbonising ‘hard to reach’ sectors like industry. The bioenergy supply in this future is 461 TWh of final energy demand, with industry the second highest demand sector after transport.

What does this scenario imply for security of supply and wider impacts?

Nuclear power’s role means less back-up is required to balance the system. An additional 14 GW of gas plant is required to meet a 5-day wind lull and demand peak across the UK.

Per-person energy-demand reductions are the smallest of the three futures. Because of electrification technologies being widely deployed for heating and transport, the demand for electricity is commensurately the highest, increasing by more than 50% compared to 2007.

Natural gas imports fall by 2050 as the lack of CCS removes the most important long-term low carbon role for the fuel. The UK imports less than quarter of the amount of gas bought in 2010, with total domestic use of 189 TWh in 2050.

Local air quality is likely to be better in this pathway than it is today. In particular, the damage to human health arising from air pollution, principally particulate matter, could be around 45-80% lower in 2050 compared to 2010. The land use impact is considerable – bioenergy is harvested from approximately 45,000 km2 of land area in the UK and other countries.