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The UK’s low carbon future is increasingly electric…

Last week, the government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change recommended that from 2025, new homes should not be connected to gas, to reduce domestic carbon emissions. The CCC certainly doesn’t shy from its task of pushing government to achieve a low carbon future, but it will be reaching for the tin hats since this would mean the end of gas boilers and gas cookers. But what the CCC is really doing is underlining, again, that the UK’s energy future is increasingly electric.           

According to the popular site MygridGB, generating a kilowatt hour of electricity in the UK back in 2007 typically churned out 510g of carbon dioxide. By 2018, this figure had nearly halved to 265g kWh. Yet even with huge economic uncertainty ahead, the UK government is still working to a 2030 ‘super-target’ of 100g kWh. To get there however, we will need step changes in three key areas of UK activity, and they all rely strongly on electrical energy solutions.

Firstly, electrical energy will need to be ‘decarbonised’ far more than it is now, which essentially means moving from our huge reliance on gas to more renewables, along with increased energy storage and smarter grid systems, while keeping our nuclear generation capacity going. A Swansea Tidal Lagoon would also go a long way to producing the ‘low-to-no’ carbon energy we need.

Alongside this, we will need a significantly less carbon-intensive transport system. Despite considerable hype, the UK is still in the early phase of moving to electric cars though in 2018, six percent of UK car registrations were electric or hybrid (up 22 percent from 2017). While electric vans have yet to trouble the scorer, the future scope for electrical vehicles, and a supporting infrastructure, is huge.   

The third move that’s needed if we are to achieve a super-low-carbon economy is ramping up energy efficiency. Too often eclipsed by high cost projects, energy efficiency is usually the most cost-effective way of all to reduce carbon emissions, and it reduces operational costs.  LED lighting – cited as a key reason why a growing UK population has reduced its overall energy use in recent years - shows that electrical and electronic technology, and not just stacks of insulation, can have a major role in achieving carbon reductions.   

Even when we consider alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, the commercial route to any sort of hydrogen economy will rely on electrolysis, driven by cheap renewable energy. 

ECA recently issued two checklists, for Members and commercial clients, which show 50 potential energy and carbon-saving solutions, and the vast bulk of these are electrotechnical. All this means that when it comes to achieving carbon and cost savings in UK buildings, transport and infrastructure, there will be numerous opportunities for our industry.

If you’d like to know more about ECA’s policy and technical support in this area, or share your thoughts on the coming opportunities and challenges and how you think we can help, we encourage you to contact us on: