A BLACKFISH PERSPECTIVE
You will have likely seen the headline “Petrol and diesel cars banned from 2030”, however there is a bit more to it than that! The news last week has the potential to have a significant impact upon the renewable energy industry with the Government’s ten point plan targeting the greenhouse gas emissions in the UK.
A quick assessment of the new policies suggests the carbon emission reductions are of the order of 5% compared to previously existing policies, yet this is still not enough to prevent the UK exceeding its fourth (2025) and fifth (2030) carbon budgets as we move toward net zero at 2050. Whilst we are fully supportive of the new Green Agenda, the money should be put in context. BBC News’s energy and environment analyst Roger Harrabin said the “total amount of new money announced in the package is a 25th of the projected £100bn cost of high-speed rail, HS2”. So, whilst this is a step in the right direction, it does not provide all the answers – let’s pick out some of our highlights.
40GW of offshore wind by 2030 is a significant challenge. Considering contracting to commissioning is of the order of five years and taking into account what has already been contracted that requires 4GW a year to be installed from 2025 onwards. The CfD pathways for supporting this scale of contracting and development will need to be addressed by the government in order to achieve these goals. Moreover, is the supply chain ready for such demand – averaging just under 1GW of deployment for the last 5 years? We are talking about installing six 12MW turbines every week for six years and that is not even accounting for seasonal weather restrictions. We know it is not part of the plan outlines here, but is it time for marine renewables to step up a level and support a 40GW installed offshore renewable energy capacity?
Ocean Energy Europe are targeting 2.6GW of marine renewables by 2030, it is likely a significant proportion of that would be in UK waters owing to the excellent tidal and wave resource. If these sources could contribute 1GW that would be a great achievement and a welcome boost for the UK energy network, taking the stress off wind energy assets and utilising multiple renewable sources.
This is an area that will require significant investment not only in generation, but in subsequent storage and use of hydrogen. In order to maximise benefits we think that a significant proportion (~50%-60%) of this will need to be “blue” hydrogen that is generated from natural gas with carbon capture, whilst the remainder would be made using electrolysis of water. Renewable sources should be used in the generation of this hydrogen to maximise on emissions reductions and this is another area where offshore renewables could play a role. Offshore renewable installations without cable installations and wetmate connectors would remove a significant chunk of the project costs and could allow the renewable asset to generate hydrogen directly and stored locally for collection. For an example of this see THyPSO and EMEC.
It is perhaps a badly kept secret that we at Blackfish like a good motor vehicle, so the advancement of the ban on petrol car sales hasn’t been greeted with huge enthusiasm in the office; however, we knew this was inevitable. What is interesting, is what the car industry will look like in 2030. Are electric cars just a stop-gap for the development of fuel cell vehicles? Fuel cells are certainly better suited to larger vehicles and have the potential to be advantageous for personal vehicles too, especially combined with significant hydrogen production and the fact that data suggests that our consumption rate of the rare earth metals for the battery technology is not sustainable long term – we have a feeling that this is the way the industry will go.