Energy blog

Energy Bill - missing the target?

Published by Sam Page on 29 December 2012

The Coalition Government's new Energy Bill is currently being discussed by MPs. This bill sets out the government's committment to cutting Green House Gas (GHG) emissions in line with UK targets - by at least 34% by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050 (against the 1990 baseline). The easiest way of doing this is by decarbonising our electricity supply, i.e. reducing the amount of CO2 that is emitted by electricity-generating power plants, as recommended by the Climate Change Committee (CCC). Energy supply is the biggest polluter, compared with the 7 other sectors, currently emitting around 190 MT (million tons) of CO2 (almost one third of the UK's total GHG emissions) per year:

UK GHG emissions by sector 1990-2010


Unfortunately, Chancellor George Osborne is not only planning to delay the decision to decarbonise the electricity supply until 2016, but is also allowing the level of GHG emissions to be increased up to 200g per kilowatt in 2030. This is twice the amount recommended by the CCC and such a high limit would permit unabated gas (much of it produced by fracking) to provide up to 60% of all electricity generated. The Table below shows that fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) emit at least 500g of CO2 for each kWh of electricity produced, while solar PV, biomass, nuclear, hydro and wind emit less than 100g of CO2 per kWh of electricity.

Comparison of GHG Emission Intensity
Power Source CO2 per kWh of electricity produced
Coal 888g
Oil 733g
Natural Gas 500g
Solar PV 85g
Biomass 45g
Nuclear 29g
Hydro-electric 26g
Wind 26g

See World Nuclear Association Report

According to Chris Goodall, a 200g rule would mean that the pathway to the legally binding 2050 UK carbon budget is unattainable, because it would add 60 million tons of carbon emissions and use up 20% of the 2030 budget.

In its 2010 recommendations on the legally binding emissions budget for the period 2022-27 the CCC said,

To meet the indicative 2030 target, putting the UK on the path to 2050, it is essential radically to decarbonise power generation, cutting emissions intensity from today’s level of around 500g CO2/kWh to around 50g CO2/kWh in 2030.

Tim Yeo M.P., the Conservative Chair of the Climate Change Select Committee and the Labour Party are both planning to put forward amendments to the Energy Bill which would limit GHG emissions to 100g CO2/kWh by 2014. This would enable the UK to reach it's emissions targets and take a lead in averting disasterous global warming.  Please write to our M.P., Claire Perry: claire.perry.mp@parliament.uk and voice your support for these crucial amendments.