By Daniel Hunter

As Government prepares to publish its Energy Bill, paving the way to 2020, leading engineers have urged policymakers to also start planning for the longer term — considering how the UK’s energy system could look in 2030 and what action will be required now in order to deliver it.

In a new paper published today (Monday), Post 2020 energy scenarios and pathways to 2030, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) says the policy framework to drive action up to 2020 is well advanced — most notably through the Electricity Market Reform. But it warns that even more ambitious action will also be required during the 2020s if we are to secure a decarbonised 2030 — and this action must be planned for soon.

“We know the UK’s energy system in 2030 needs to look very different to today’s and there are already a number of scenarios which sketch out how a successfully decarbonised energy system could look in 2030," Past ICE President, Richard Coackley, said.

"But none of these visions can become reality without a policy framework that enables action not only in the 2010s but in the 2020s. The Climate Change Committee itself highlights the need for a ‘significantly faster pace of progress’ through the 2020s but this cannot happen unaided.

“To maximise the chances of a decarbonised 2030, the existing scenarios must be explored in more detail taking into consideration political, economic, environmental, social, legal and technological factors. This will allow major challenges to be identified followed by the formation of the next wave of policy that will facilitate the accelerated progress required.”

ICE says policymakers will face a number of challenges when plotting a ‘policy pathway’ to 2030 - many of these relating to political will, policy certainty and public attitudes, which are critical factors in the transition to a low carbon society.

It urges policymakers to ensure future energy policy:

For electricity:

- Commits to a target to almost completely decarbonise electricity by 2030 — a binding target will help provide certainty and confidence for investors and industry
- Dispels the notion that the answer is gas, or nuclear, or renewables — all are required in large measures
- Provides more clarity on how investors can be protected from future political and policy risk
- Redoubles efforts to demonstrate and deploy carbon, capture and storage (CCS) and develops energy storage technologies — both of which could prove to be global game changers
- Acknowledges the implications of the additional significant heat and vehicle demands on the electricity system and develops a clear strategy to manage it

For heat:

- Accelerates demand reduction through better insulation and controls
- Ensures uptake of renewable heat continues to be pursued through regulation, cost reduction and better installation standards

For transport:

- Ensures energy is a priority for any transport strategy. In transport — unlike in electricity and heat — emissions have not been reduced and there are difficult questions about demand reduction and management, modal shift and public attitudes. The UK transport strategy must be integrated with energy a top priority.

“In the next 12 months, political thought will increasingly turn towards party manifestos," Coackley concluded.

"As emission reduction targets demand changes in heat and transport, they will also demand changes in the habits and behaviour of consumers. This presents an opportunity for considered, practical policy solutions that will help the UK reach its long term energy goals.”

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