De-carbonising how the UK powers and heat its homes and deals with waste

The UK can and should have low cost and low carbon electricity, heat and waste. Ten years ago, it seemed almost impossible that the UK would be able to be powered mainly be renewable energy in an affordable and reliable way. But there has been a quiet revolution going on in this area. There is ample scope to build on this success in years to come. Highly renewable, clean, and low cost energy and waste systems increasingly appear to be achievable.

Sustaining progress on reducing emissions requires government to show ambition. The crucial first step is to enable an increasing deployment of renewables. The Commission’s modelling has shown that a highly renewable generation mix is a low cost option for the energy system. The cost would be comparable to building further nuclear power plants after Hinkley Point C, and cheaper than implementing carbon capture and storage with the existing system. The electricity system should be running off 50 per cent renewable generation by 2030, as part of a transition to a highly renewable generation mix. Government should not agree support for more than one nuclear power station beyond Hinkley Point C before 2025.

NIA recommendations

  • The Commission recommends that government should set out a pipeline of pot 1 Contracts for Difference auctions, to deliver at least 50 per cent renewable generation by 2030, as part of the transition to a highly renewable generation mix. Government should:
  • Move technologies that have recently become cost competitive, such as offshore wind, to pot 1 following the next Contracts for Difference auction
    in Spring 2019. Pot 1 should be used for the overwhelming majority of the increase in renewable capacity required
  • Publish indicative auction dates and budgets for the next decade by 2020
  • Over time take whole systems costs into account in Contracts for Difference auctions, as far as possible.
  • Consider whether there is a case for a small-scale, pot 2 auction in the 2020s, if there are technologies which are serious contenders for future pot 1 auctions
  • Not agree support for more than one nuclear power station beyond Hinkley Point C, before 2025.

The Commission recommends that government needs to make progress towards zero carbon heat:

  • Establishing the safety case for using hydrogen as a replacement for natural gas, followed by trialling hydrogen at community scale by 2021
  • Subject to the success of community trials, launching a trial to supply hydrogen to at least 10,000 homes by 2023, including hydrogen production with carbon capture and storage.
  • By 2021, government should establish an up to date evidence base on the performance of heat pumps within the UK building stock and the scope
    for future reductions in the cost of installation
  • Set a target for the rate of installations of energy efficiency measures in the building stock of 21,000 measures a week by 2020, maintained at this
    level until a decision on future heat infrastructure is taken. Policies to deliver this should include: allocating £3.8 billion between now and 2030 to deliver energy efficiency improvements in social housing; Government continuing to trial innovative approaches for driving energy efficiency within the owner occupier market; Government setting out, by the end of 2018, how regulations in the private rented sector will be tightened and enforced over time.

The Commission recommends that government should set a target for recycling 65 per cent of municipal waste and 75 per cent of plastic packaging by 2030. Government should set individual targets for all local authorities and provide financial support for transitional costs. The government should establish:

  • Separate food waste collection for households and businesses (to enable production of biogas) by 2025
  • Clear two symbol labelling (recyclable or not recyclable) across the UK by 2022
  • A consistent national standard of recycling for households and businesses by 2025
  • Restrictions on the use of hard-to-recycle plastic packaging (PVC and polystyrene) by 2025
  • Incentives to reduce packaging and for product design that is more easily recyclable by 2022
  • A common data reporting framework for businesses handling commercialand industrial waste by the end of 2019, ideally through voluntary reporting but if necessary by legislation.

Note: on 16 April 2019 the Chief Executive of the National Infrastructure Commission wrote to the Chair of the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee to provide additional information and correct two errors identified in this chapter. A copy of the letter is available here.