The UK’s most eminent engineers have warned that a complete overhaul in thinking is necessary to cut greenhouse gas emissions and meet future energy needs.
The changes include a transformation of the nation’s draughty homes in addition to a vast expansion of wind and solar power and dozens of new nuclear or ‘clean coal’ power plants, according to a report by Royal Academy of Engineering.
The authors of the report say the existing level of political will and the market-led approach to energy planning cannot deliver the fundamental restructuring needed.
“We are nowhere near having a plan,” Prof Sue Ion, who led the report, told the Guardian newspaper.
“These are massive projects. It requires a huge exercise all through government, and needs to come from the very top and go down through all departments such as transport and local government,” she added.
The team devised scenarios for the UK in 2050, starting with achievable cuts in energy usage and the maximum possible amount of renewable energy.
They also calculated how much fossil fuel could then be used while still meeting the UK’s planned action on climate change, an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050.
The findings of the report exposed an energy gap that was filled by dozens of new nuclear power and coal stations fitted with technology to prevent carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere, writes The Guardian.
In the two scenarios identified by the engineers as most probable, fossil fuel use fell by 75%, renewable energy rose 20-fold and about 40 new nuclear or clean coal plants were needed (see details below).
The remaining fossil fuel has to be split between heating homes or powering transport, with social consequences for both.