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Carbon Plan pathway: higher CCS, more bioenergy

Energy saving per capita: 43% Electricity demand: 490 TWh

The “Higher CCS; more bioenergy” future assumes the successful deployment of CCS technology at commercial scale and its use in power generation and industry, supported by significant gas use. CCS is also used with sustainable and plentiful biomass supplies (BECCS) to generate ‘negative’ emissions.

What is the sectoral picture in 2050?

Electricity generation is provided by a balanced mix of cost-competitive renewables (36 GW of capacity), CCS (40 GW of capacity) and nuclear power (20 GW of capacity). Biomass-fired CCS technology plays a major role, and helps to enable negative net emissions from the power sector by 2050.

People embrace new technologies and smart controls in their homes, as well as insulation measures. 5.6 million solid walls and 6.9 million cavity walls are insulated, and domestic and commercial heating is almost entirely decarbonised. Half of domestic heat demand is met by house-level electric heat pumps, with the other half generated using network-level systems like district heating and CHP.

Industry grows steadily and achieves energy demand reductions of one third. 48% of remaining emissions are captured by CCS. Geosequestration has an appreciable impact, taking one million tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere every year by 2050.

65% of cars and all buses are run using ultra-low emission fuel sources. People still travel 6% more than today, but there is a substantial shift towards cycling and using public transport more. 74% of distance travelled domestically is still made by cars.

Sustainable bioenergy use in this future is highest of the three futures, delivering 471 terawatt hours (TWh) of final energy demand. Much of the supply is directed towards power generation in order to meet demand from CCS stations and help create ‘headroom’ for continued use of fossil fuels.

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

A balanced generation mix and a much lower reliance on electrified demand-side technologies means that back-up requirements of this scenario are the lowest of the three futures. No additional gas plant is required to meet a 5-day wind lull and demand peak across the UK in 2050.

Per-person energy demand falls by 43% compared to 2007, while total electricity demand increases by 29% from 2007 levels. This electricity demand increase is the lowest of the three scenarios, as a consequence of a widespread roll-out in non-electric low carbon technologies in heating and transport.

In order to meet the demands of gas-fired CCS, natural gas imports play a bigger role in this scenario, with 215 TWh of imports - the largest of the three scenarios, though still approximately half of what the UK imported in 2010.

Approximately 51,000 km2 of land area in the UK and other countries in used to grow bioenergy. Heavy use of bioenergy could have a negative impact on local air quality. In particular, the damage to human health arising from air pollution, principally particulate matter, could be around 80% lower to 60% higher in 2050 compared to 2010 depending on the level of innovation achieved in high emission technologies. Given the scope for adverse implications for air quality, if the UK were to adopt this pathway the Government would develop a policy framework that ensured that improved pollution abatement technology was fully deployed so that the health impacts of air pollution could be minimised.