New report lays out vision for a net zero energy system in South Wales

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A collaborative project involving energy utilities, the Welsh Government, South Wales Industrial Cluster and other public and private sector representatives, undertook analysis to consider how the energy system in South Wales can achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the project partners, with the energy system contributing to the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions in Wales, this work has implications for reaching Wales’ carbon budgets and avoiding the worst impacts of future climate change.

As part of Zero 2050, representatives from National Grid Electricity Transmission, National Grid Gas Transmission, Western Power Distribution (The report analysis concluded before National Grid’s acquisition of Western Power Distribution), Wales & West Utilities and the Welsh Government, as well as experts from Cardiff University and energy and transport consultants, modelled future energy demands across the residential and commercial, industrial and transport sectors, and how this demand could be met.

Robin Gupta, Net Zero Innovation Manager at National Grid Electricity Transmission, commented: “Now, more than ever, with changes to how we travel, heat our homes and use energy it’s vital that organisations and individuals come together to help achieve the collective goal of net zero.

“Projects such as Zero2050 are crucial in providing leadership and guidance and can offer a blueprint for decarbonisation in South Wales. We look forward to sharing the findings and helping the industry continue progress in the months and years ahead.”

The final report, published in July, follows near two years of analysis from over 18 organisations and follows individual reports into each of Zero 2050’s 11 workstreams and comes ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

The report argues that a just transition to a zero carbon economy is critical for the region, ensuring costs to consumers are minimised and considering the future impact on jobs.

It highlights a number of achievable pathways to a net zero energy system by 2050, alongside ‘important actions which need to be taken now’, such as increasing onshore wind and solar energy, and improving the energy efficiency of buildings.

The modelling which informed the report found that, for example, if all recommended energy efficiency measures in Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for homes were to be implemented, annual heat demand would decrease on average by 30 per cent in Cardiff and Newport and 32 per cent in Swansea.

Electricity consumption requirements for the South Wales industrial cluster is set to increase to 8-12TWh under different decarbonisation scenarios.

Based on the findings the project partners recommend ten ‘no regrets’ immediate actions, which can ‘help accelerate the energy transition in South Wales and enable a net zero energy system:

  • Increase capacity of onshore wind and solar.
  • Develop a major residential retrofit programme and develop a robust heat pump supply chain.
  • Incentivise commercial and industrial energy efficiency.
  • Consider opportunities for industry co-location and circular economy processes and develop an approach to decarbonising “behind the meter” industrial supply.
  • Investigate further the role of demand side response.
  • Pilot hydrogen production from both autothermal reforming and electrolysis.
  • Investigate hydrogen salt cavern storage at a UK scale.
  • Undertake network studies to understand feasibility and cost of transitioning networks to use hydrogen.
  • Deliver a co-ordinated electric vehicle charging roll-out programme.
  • Investigate options for carbon capture, use and storage and CO2 export from South Wales.

The ‘South Wales Net Zero 2050 – Socio-economics – Final report’ is available on the project website.