Parliament to debate bill committing UK to net-zero by 2050

7 June 2019, source edie newsroom

A bill which would commit the UK Government to reducing national carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 will be put to Parliament next Tuesday (11 June), the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee has confirmed today (7 June)

The CCC's advice on legislating for net-zero by 2050, requested by the Government after the IPCC report last autumn, was published on 2 May

The CCC's advice on legislating for net-zero by 2050, requested by the Government after the IPCC report last autumn, was published on 2 May

Developed in line with the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) recommendations on legislating for a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, which was published last month, the new bill will be introduced to the House by BEIS Committee Chair Rachel Reeves MP.

The specifics of the bill are yet to be revealed, but the framework is broadly expected to echo the measures proposed by the CCC. These include bringing the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales forward to 2035; quadrupling the UK’s renewable energy generation capacity; rewilding 20,000 hectares of land annually and deploying carbon capture and storage (CCS) at scale.

The BEIS Committee has confirmed that the bill would also include international aviation and shipping. Under the existing Climate Change Act, the UK currently excludes international aviation and certain types of international maritime activity from its overall carbon footprint calculations – a caveat which will be removed by an alteration of the Act if the bill is passed.

Reeves said the aim of the bill is to “bring home to the Government the urgent need to commit to the net-zero 2050 target and give the UK the best possible chance of meeting this challenge.”

“In the UK we have a golden opportunity to deliver environmental benefits, new jobs, and sustainable green industries - but this won’t happen without a coordinated, cross-departmental effort from Government and a cast-iron commitment to achieving a net-zero target,” she said.

“In the final days of her premiership, Theresa May should take this opportunity to take the crucial next step to ending the UK’s contribution to global warming and set out that the whole of Government is committed to achieving net zero by 2050.”

The bill has already received verbal backing from MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

Political shifts

The news from the BEIS Committee comes just hours after May stepped down as Conservative Party leader – a move she confirmed late last month after repeatedly failing to gain support for her Brexit Withdrawal agreement.

She will remain Prime Minister until her successor is chosen, with most reports indicating that she will back the BEIS Committee’s bill, along with the majority of MPs, before being replaced.

Nonetheless, comments made by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond this week have cast doubts over whether there really is top-level Tory support for legislating for net-zero. Hammond claimed that spending cuts for schools, hospitals and the police force would be needed to fund total decarbonisation of the UK economy, which he price estimated at £1trn.

Both the CCC and No 10 have refuted Hammond’s calculations. The CCC’s advice prices the cost of reaching net-zero within the same cost envelope of achieving the 80% carbon emissions reduction which the UK is currently bound to under the Climate Change Act, at between 1-2% of GDP in 2050.

Green campaign groups have also been quick to take umbrage at Hammond’s sentiments, emphasising the fact that failure to act on climate change is also likely to result in large costs in the form of stranded assets, resource scarcity, reduced competitiveness and increased social and healthcare spending.

WWF’s chief executive Tanya Steel, for example, said the Government should know by now “how to tackle the climate and environment crisis, and do so in a way that leaves the UK public with greater economic security, not less”.

“The investments this requires will not only give future generations security, but in the process create jobs from new, clean industries,” Steele said. “What’s more, this investment will cost less than dealing with a climate breakdown – the reality if we fail to act.”

UK net zero transition to cost £1 trillion, chancellor claims

Image: HMT.

Image: HMT.

The UK’s transition towards a net zero economy will cost the country more than £1 trillion, 40% more than the Committee on Climate Change has suggested, HM Treasury has claimed.

The Financial Times  has reported that a letter from chancellor Philip Hammond to Prime Minister Theresa May last month claimed that the true cost of setting a net zero emissions target by 2050 would be north of £1 trillion.

The letter, since published by FT journalist Jim Pickard, addressed to the Prime Minister and dated from last month, argues that while the chancellor agrees that government must legislate for a net zero target “as soon as possible”, it is essential that it “fully considers the implications of adopting a more ambitious target” before enshrining it in law.

The letter goes on to question the Committee on Climate Change’s forecasted cost of attaining net zero emissions by 2050, stating that the £50 billion per year estimate the CCC put forward last month is 40% lower than the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s estimate which stands at £70 billion per year.

Without any formal clarification on the issue, it remains to be seen how the government’s own analysis differs so markedly from the CCC’s.

The Committee’s analysis was exhaustively detailed in a 256-page report last month, examining the impacts establishing such a target would have throughout the economy, but limiting costs to within 1-2% of GDP.

Within the three-page letter, Hammond suggests that while his department’s analysis places costs within the CCC’s envelope of 1-2% of GDP, it forecasts them to be significantly higher.

It also stresses the level of disruption establishing a net zero target would cause to areas such as housing, industry and transport, arguing that “significant changes” to agricultural practices would be required.

The chancellor concludes with a recommendation that the PM accept the Committee’s target, writing: “The UK has shown excellent leadership on climate change over the past decade and must continue to do so. However, in order for this radical transformation to be successful, it is essential that we better understand the implications of setting a target that will shape our economy and society for a generation, before it is set in law.”

Publication of the letter follows what has been a trepidatious week for the issue of decarbonisation in Westminster.

On Tuesday it was claimed that cabinet ministers had agreed to use flexibilities to meet future carbon budgets, an issue which has sparked strong condemnation from the CCC in the past, followed a day later by news that the Treasury select committee was to launch an inquiry into the department’s decarbonisation efforts.

It also took centre stage during yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions when shadow energy secretary Rebecca Long Bailey, standing in for opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, clashed with David Lidington over the issue.

Long Bailey initially questioned whether or not the Prime Minister had raised environmental issues with repeated climate change denier and US President Donald Trump during his state visit this week, before moving on to ask why the government is off track in meeting its own, legally-binding commitments.

Lidington’s reply, that the government is “not off track” in meeting respective targets, prompted a strong rebuke from the shadow energy secretary, who raised reports from earlier this week that the government is to use flexibilities to “fiddle” with forthcoming carbon budgets and scrutinised its record on solar PV, with domestic installs having fallen 94% month-on-month following the closure of the feed-in tariff.

“How much authority do this government actually have on this issue? Three current cabinet ministers have denied the scientific consensus on climate change, and several of those standing in the Tory leadership contest have close links with organisations and individuals promoting climate denial. It does not bode well,” she said.

Lidington’s assertion that the government remains on track to meet its carbon budgets is also only strictly true when referring to the third carbon budget. In respect of the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, covering the period from 2022 - 2032, the gap to meeting those budgets is actually widening by the government’s own assertion.

The government is also still yet to confirm publicly whether or not it has taken the decision under Section 17 of the Climate Change Act to use previous over-performance in emissions reduction to offset predicted underperformance within forthcoming budgets, a move which the Committee on Climate Change has repeatedly warned against.

Investment heads towards renewables and infrastructure

Foresight Group has launched a new fund to invest directly into publicly listed companies that own and operate infrastructure or renewable energy assets globally.  It is targeting a total return of more than 3% per annum above the rate of UK inflation (measured by UK CPI).

The company said that traditional sources of income were facing structural issues, and renewable energy and infrastructure had become  increasingly attractive asset classes and a mainstay of investing for diversification. These assets are often characterised by stable, project-level cashflows and deliver predictable income with lower volatility, low correlated to traditional asset classes.

Ahead of the Fund’s launch, Foresight  research with 144 advisers  revealed a strong appetite for global infrastructure amidst fears of a sustained downturn, Brexit uncertainty and market instability. Some 66% of advisers expect to see clients’ allocations to global infrastructure increase over the next three years - more than double the number since 2017 when just 32% of advisers predicted it would become more popular.  The Fund will invest in companies that own and operate assets ranging from solar power and geothermal generation plants to medical office buildings and storage facilities.

Visualizing EV Sales Around the World

Published March 16, 2019 By 

It took five years to sell the first million electric cars. In 2018, it took only six months.

The Tesla Model 3 also passed a significant milestone in 2018, becoming the first electric vehicle (EV) to crack the 100,000 sales mark in a single year. The Nissan LEAF and BAIC EC-Series are both likely to surpass the 100,000 this year as well.

Although the electric vehicle market didn’t grow as fast as some experts initially projected, it appears that EV sales are finally hitting their stride around the world. Below are the countries where electric vehicles are a biggest part of the sales mix.

Electric vehicle sales

The EV Capital of the World

Norway, after amassing a fortune through oil and gas extraction, made the conscious decision to create incentives for its citizens to purchase electric vehicles. As a result, the country is the undisputed leader in EV adoption.

In 2018, a one-third of all passenger vehicles were fully electric, and that percentage is only expected to increase in the near future. The Norwegian government has even set the ambitious target of requiring all new cars to be zero-emission by 2025.

That enthusiasm for EVs is spilling over to other countries in the region, which are also seeing a high percentage of EV sales. However, the five countries in which EVs are the most popular – Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, and Finland – only account for 0.5% of the world’s population. For EV adoption to make any real impact on global emissions, drivers in high-growth/high–population countries will need to opt for electric powered vehicles. (Of course power grids will need to get greener as well, but that’s another topic.)

China’s Supercharged Impact

One large economy that is embracing plug-in vehicles is China.

The country leads the world in electric vehicle sales, with over a million new vehicles hitting the roads in 2018. Last year, more EVs were sold in Shenzhen and Shanghai than any country in the world, with the exception of the United States.

China also leads the world in another important metric – charging stations. Not only does China have the highest volume of chargers, many of them allow drivers to charge up faster.

Electric vehicle charging stations

Accelerating from the Slow Lane

In the United States, electric vehicle sales are rising, but they still tend to be highly concentrated in specific areas. In around half of states, EVs account for fewer than 1% of vehicle sales. On the other hand, California is approaching the 10% mark, a significant milestone for the most populous state.

Nationally, EV sales increased throughout 2018, with December registering nearly double the sales volume of the same month in 2017. Part of this surge in sales is driven by the Tesla’s Model 3, which led the market in the last quarter of 2018.

U.S. Electric vehicle sales

North of the border, in Canada, the situation is similar. EV sales are increasing, but not fast enough to meet targets set by the government. Canada aimed to have half a million EVs on the road by 2018, but missed that target by around 400,000 vehicles.

The big question now is whether the recent surge in sales is a temporary trend driven by government subsidies and showmanship of Elon Musk, or whether EVs are now becoming a mainstream option for drivers around the world.

Negative pricing, flexibility and the power sector’s evolution

Image: National Grid.

Image: National Grid.

May 2019 could well be the month that the UK’s energy transition took hold. It was good news story after good news story, unless, of course, you owned a coal-fired power plant.

Or, indeed, were an energy trader hoping for a quiet bank holiday weekend.

Over the last bank holiday weekend, an “extraordinary turn of events” saw the UK’s power price turn negative for nine consecutive hours, a new record run for the country’s wholesale market. Demand for power slipped to 2GW below forecasts which, when combined with surging wind generation, saw prices fall to as low as -£71.26/MWh. In total, one 24-hour period saw 11 hours of negative power pricing, and the average system price for power on Sunday 26 May stood at -£12.16/MWh.

Put bluntly, if you owned a power station on that day without any guaranteed pricing arrangement, you stood to lose money.

Those events only served to underpin power price trends for month in total. Rarely was the wholesale price above £50/MWh and the average price throughout May 2019 stood at £39.47/MWh, according to Drax’s Electric Insights tool. For comparison, May 2018’s average system price was almost exactly £10 more expensive at £49.34/MWh, as was May 2017’s at £49.24/MWh.

In years to come, the energy sector may fondly remember May 2019 as the month coal fell off the grid, but in reality the level of change has been far starker, and the demands placed on grid operators and generators alike have evolved.

Negative pricing is not a new phenomena. A concerted spell of negative prices has already impacted the UK this year, most notably in March when a similar turn of events to those experienced last weekend sent prices into the red for six hours. Germany, with its higher penetration of renewables, witnessed some 134 hours of negative pricing in 2018 alone.

But what, perhaps, is new is the embracing of negative pricing as an opportunity, rather than an unfortunate side-effect of the clean energy transition.

Traders are having to be more hands on than ever before. Last weekend saw prices on energy exchanges go even lower than the -£71.26/MWh system price as traders feared that the pricing trend would continue downwards. And as supply continued to outstrip demand, National Grid was forced into action, ramping up its balancing activity. Most notably, the Thanet offshore wind farm off the south Kent coast received an instruction to turn down at -£135/MWh during the midst of the negative stretch.

In total, National Grid paid out some £6.6 million for grid balancing on Sunday 26 May, essentially 22-times the £300,000 it’d paid out the day before.

Yes, these numbers have been driven somewhat by freak events. Even the most forward-thinking of energy professionals have described them as unprecedented. But as the transition accelerates and our relationship with demand and supply patterns changes, so too will the markets that underpin it. Research and analysis firm Cornwall Insight has forecasted that periods of negative imbalance pricing could spiral over the next 15 years, becoming so prevalent that more than 10% of half-hourly settlement periods could produce negative prices by 2034.

This isn’t to say that networks are at any great risk - National Grid has long since argued it has the right suite of tools to manage these kind of instances, and is now confident it will be capable of operating a net zero electricity grid as early as 2025 - but it does throw up some interesting debates for the future of low carbon power in the UK.

A monthly average wholesale price south of £40/MWh might be good news for consumers, but it won’t exactly be welcomed by developers of subsidy-free renewable plants. Any entity looking to finance a utility-scale solar farm sans subsidy will tell you merchant risk is probably the biggest remaining obstacle to bringing a project to fruition, and trends for falling power prices will only make that hurdle harder to jump. Renewables in that sense are at risk of cannibalising themselves, fears which have been raised by the renewables sector for some time now. In that sense, the sector will be watching the ongoing Contracts for Difference auction, during which offshore wind prices are expected to reach historic lows, with great interest.

But at the other end of the spectrum instances like these throw greater weight behind the argument that the power sector no longer truly values generation, but flexibility. The ability to ramp your demand or output up or down and respond to what the grid truly needs, rather than just churn out power and turn off occasionally, is where the market is unquestionably headed.

Last weekend provides a snapshot of that. If you owned a large-scale battery, it was a big bank holiday weekend indeed. If you charged between the hours of 4pm and 5pm when prices were around -£60/MWh and discharged just six hours later when prices were £40/MWh, you were effectively paid some £100 per unit. That’s Hinkley Point C money.

Speaking to Current± last week, aggregator Limejump said that any smart trading strategy stood to deliver great revenue during periods of southward energy prices like last week. Battery storage operators were “definitely happy recipients”, the company said.

But chuck more battery storage and other flexible generators onto the grid, and the system stands to regulate itself. Negative pricing shouldn’t be seen as a problem in need of a solution, but instead an indication that we aren’t going flexible fast enough.

Radical action by 2030' needed to tackle Scotland's climate challenges

3 June 2019, source edie newsroom

The head of Scotland's nature conservation agency has warned the country faces an "apocalyse" of flooded towns, dead forests and polluted rivers unless urgent action is taken to cut CO2 emissions.

Francesca Osowska warned of abandoned rural areas

Francesca Osowska warned of abandoned rural areas

Francesca Osowska, chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage, said the world had barely a decade to shift to a low carbon economy before the effects of global heating were irreversible and catastrophic. She said there were very clear threats facing Scotland, and by implication the rest of the UK, unless radical action was taken by 2030.

“Imagine an apocalypse – polluted waters; drained and eroding peatlands; coastal towns and villages deserted in the wake of rising sea level and coastal erosion; massive areas of forestry afflicted by disease; a dearth of people in rural areas; and no birdsong,” she told the Royal Society of Edinburgh on Thursday evening.

“All of this is possible, and there are parts of the world we can point to where inaction has given rise to one or more of these nightmare landscapes.”

Osowska said current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere meant global heating of 1.5C was almost inevitable, requiring adaptation in the way people lived.

To prevent even more heating, there had to be sweeping changes to the way land and seas were exploited for food, towards much more sustainable food production; a marked shift towards sustainable transport systems; increased green spaces in urban areas; and significant reform of the economy, to promote greater equality.

Likening the relationship between the Earth’s climate and its biodiversity to marriage, she said there had been major shifts in climate and nature before. “But the rate of the current shift is both unprecedented and phenomenal,” she said.

“In the space of geological seconds – possibly milliseconds – we have crashed the marriage. Our actions threaten to disrupt the harmony that has existed over the last 10,000-15,000 years. We are entering a climate which may not be capable of sustaining the planet’s billions of people and nature as we know it.”

She cited goals set out in a recent report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), a government body that advises the UK and devolved governments on climate policy, which has called on the UK to adopt a target of net zero emissions by 2050. The UK government has so far failed to endorse that.

That required converting 20% of agricultural land to forestry, biomass for energy, or expanding carbon-rich peatlands; a switch to electrically powered transport; increasing renewable energy production by 50%; and heavy investment in carbon capture and storage, to pipe the CO2 still being produced underground.

The CCC said Scotland could achieve net zero – a figure that allows some CO2 emissions as long as that carbon is absorbed by other measures – by 2045 because it has greater scope for new forestry and renewable energy production.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has adopted that goal but her government has yet to set out how it will be achieved. MSPs at Holyrood are resisting proposals for mandatory 20mph zones in urban areas and taxing workplace parking to help cut transport emissions.

Has National Grid put another nail in gas’s coffin?

Who would be a gas generator? Despite the ejection of coal plants from the generation stack (and good riddance, I say), gas has got less and less of the wholesale energy supply market. It has been squeezed out between our growing renewables portfolio and the floor provided by nuclear, and it is increasingly missing out on lucrative high-priced periods because of the addition of gas engines and storage.

The situation has not been fatal, although it has certainly prompted a few closures, pushed along by the suspension of the Capacity Market as well as other uncertainties like the cost of carbon or of transporting gas.

Gas operators have survived by finding a new niche as the industry’s ‘go-to guys’. Balancing? Frequency response? Black start? Inertia? Gas operators have looked at their large rotating machinery and said “we can do that”, making scarcer energy revenues just a part of the mix of income.

What must have come as a very unwelcome shock is the news from National Grid that it wants to be able to operate the grid with all those services from other sources – renewables, storage, demand side response etc – at times when demand is covered by low-carbon generation. The newly independent Electricity System Operator has set out a road map to develop the necessary markets for ancillary services and it is aims to reach that goal by 2025.

What’s the problem? For all that gas plant have done to talk up the flexibility they can bring to the system, the fact is that they are not best placed to do it. They have done an excellent job of running plant as flexible units, even though they were designed to operate best at baseload, and gas turbine manufacturers have responded with upgrades that will allow them to be operated more flexibly – Uniper will be carrying out such an upgrade at its Enfield plant shortly. But all that cranking up and down places extra stress on the plant and ages it faster – and a battery, or a wind farm feathering its blades, can ramp up and down much faster. In open markets for ancillary services, gas will often be beaten.

Of course, that applies only when the wind blows or the sun shines. At other times – at the moment – gas will have far less competition.

Where does that leave gas? Lobbying against interconnectors, being queasily hopeful that nuclear reaches the end of its life (and perhaps that new nuclear is further delayed), fighting it out for what’s left of those revenue streams and hoping for a still, cold winter. It’s a hard model to build a business on – and it makes a Capacity Market that pays those plant to stay on the system throughout long periods of inaction even more important.

Who would be a gas generator? Fewer and fewer companies, is my guess.

These 6 Charts Show How the World is Improving

Note form Agile Energy Admin: interesting charts but equally interesting would be the ones that show deforestation, pollution in our cities, the rise of asthma particularly in cities, loss of habitat and biodiversity, species that have become extinct, the build rate of coal fired power stations, the rise of renewable energy (or not compared to the coal stations) the use of hydrocarbon based growth accelerators (fertilser) in agriculture, etcetera. So it is not all positive when we look at trends other than those directly benefiting the human species. Like most things in life there is no free lunch.

View a high resolution version of this graphic
These 6 Charts Show How the World is Improving

These 6 Charts Show How the World is Improving

View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.

It only takes a few minutes of cable news to get the feeling that the world is heading into a tailspin.

Endless images of homicide investigations, natural disasters, car crashes, and drug busts fill the airwaves on a daily basis. It’s upsetting – but also certainly captivating for the average viewer.

In fact, the news cycle thrives on fear and violence, so mainstream networks find a way to fill up 99% of programming with these singular events. It’s addicting and sometimes anger-inducing, but is it representative of what’s really going on in the world?

Good News Happens Slowly

Today’s infographic comes to us from economist Max Roser of Our World in Data, and it highlights six megatrends that show that in many important ways, our world is improving drastically.

The one commonality of these six indicators? They all happen slowly and incrementally, but are more evident with a long-term perspective.

Each family lifted out of poverty, each classroom that gets built, and each village gaining access to basic vaccinations may not seem significant on a scale of billions of people – but over decades, these gains add up to create a richer, more educated, and healthier world and a very powerful statistical story.

Six Global Trends

Here are the six big picture trends pointed out by Roser, using data collected over hundreds of years:

1. Extreme Poverty
The portion of people in extreme poverty – making less than $1.90 per day – has dropped like a rock over the years. Back in 1940, about 75% of the world was in extreme poverty – today, that number is just 10%.

The most potent recent example of this is China, where access to free markets have enabled 700 million people to be lifted out of poverty in just over 20 years.

Poverty in China

It’s also worth mentioning that statistics for this category are done using inflation-adjusted international dollars, which take into account inflation over time as well as exchange rates. Non-monetary forms of income are also included in the calculations.

2. Basic Education
In 1820, only a privileged few were able to get basic schooling. Since then, millions of classrooms and schools have been added around the globe, and the numbers are staggering. In relative terms, we’ve gone from 17% of people having a basic education to 86% today.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of this, also from Our World in Data:

Level of education of world

3. Literacy
Following a similar trend line as basic education, literacy has risen from 12% to 85% over roughly two hundred years. In absolute terms, these numbers are even more impressive. In the 1820s, there were only about 100 million people that could read that were 15 years or older. Today, the number stands at 4.6 billion.

4. Democracy
While the world has been having some short-term setbacks when it comes to freedom and democracy, the overall trend line is still impressive over the long run.

In 1900, only 1 in 100 people worldwide lived in a democracy – and today, the majority (56 in 100) can say they live in a country with free and fair elections.

5. Vaccination
Vaccinations for diseases like whopping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria were unavailable for most of the 200 year chart. However, today around 86% of people globally are vaccinated against these basic and devastating illnesses.

6. Child Mortality
Even as far back as 1920, it used to be that over 30% of infants would die before they hit their 5th birthday.

Since then, developments in housing, sanitation, science, and medicine have made it so that death is a much rarer occurrence for the youngest people in our society. Today, on a global basis, child mortality has been reduced to 4%.

A Future with Hydrogen?

Submitted by Jacobs on 14th Jan 2019.

With a global shift to clean energy growth, is hydrogen part of the decarbonising solution? In this article we explore what’s driving the need for change and some of the work underway to test the vision of a future with hydrogen.

Carbon dioxide levels are at their highest in 650,000 years1. Arctic sea ice is dropping by an average of 12.8 percent per decade2 and other impacts range from extreme weather events and rising sea levels, to increasing ocean acidification and global temperature rise.

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a warning about the serious threat posed by climate change and the considerable difference in the impacts that we can expect to see with 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming. The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC highlighted that limiting global warming to 1.5ºC requires rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society, including land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities.

As Jacobs grows its sustainability work, we continue to partner with clients around the world exploring opportunities to deliver a more sustainable and equitable society and protect our natural ecosystems. No matter the challenge, we’re providing deep technical and market knowledge and digitally-enabled solutions to help tackle some of the world’s big issues. Particularly, in cities spaces where there are tough challenges around air quality, connectivity, mobility and placemaking.

The U.K.’s Climate Change Act 2008 has a 2050 target to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels. With heat being the most difficult decarbonization challenge facing the U.K., meeting this target implies decarbonising nearly all heat in buildings and most industrial processes. This is driving different initiatives, fuels and technology combinations to be explored to see which have the potential to make a significant contribution.

The U.K. Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) set up its Energy Innovation Portfolio to accelerate the commercialization of innovative, clean, cost-effective and reliable energy technologies by the mid-2020s. It’s looking at innovation needs across nuclear, renewables, lower carbon and more energy efficient industry and residential and other priorities.

The potential of large-scale hydrogen conversion to significantly reduce carbon emissions

Heating and cooling U.K. homes accounts for about half of all energy consumption and a third of carbon emissions. And about 80 percent of homes use natural gas (methane) for heating and cooking3. One of the options being explored is to replace methane with hydrogen, as hydrogen releases no carbon dioxide when converted to heat. A U.K.-wide conversion to hydrogen gas could reduce heat emissions by at least 73 percent as well as supporting decarbonisation of transport and localized electrical generation4. This offers a major step towards meeting the U.K.’s carbon reduction targets. BEIS is considering several options, from how hydrogen could be produced sustainably at scale, through to what it would cost to change. With experience across hydrogen production, transmission and transportation, Jacobs is part of this cutting-edge work, involved in a series of projects that offer the potential to deliver world firsts.

BEIS commissioned Jacobs, along with partners Element Energy and Cardiff University, to complete analysis on the potential use of full hydrogen for industrial appliances, as part of the Hy4Heat program. The Hy4Heat feasibility study is exploring whether it is technically possible and safe to replace natural gas with hydrogen in residential and commercial buildings and gas appliances. The team is investigating the potential future conversion of industrial heating appliances to hydrogen, including costs, technical and commercial requirements, timeframes, safety and other considerations. This specific work package will provide an evidence base for the Hy4Heat program, inform future government decisions regarding potential energy pathways and outline the kind of hydrogen trials and appliance development work required, ahead of any potential decisions around industrial conversion to hydrogen.

The ground-breaking “H21 North of England (NoE) report” released (November 23) in the U.K., sets out how 3.7 million homes and 40,000 businesses in the north of England, currently heated by natural gas, could be converted to hydrogen and made emission-free by 2034. Northern Gas Networks (NGN) and Cadent, in partnership with Equinor, have developed a H21 North of England concept design study. Jacobs provided technical expertise relating to hydrogen pipeline modelling to this detailed plan for the decarbonisation of circa 14 percent of U.K. heat through conversion of the North of England. The full NoE report also provides a vision for rollout of the hydrogen economy across the U.K. This important study explores how an expansion of the hydrogen economy could work and informs future strategies for a range of challenges to create a new era in low carbon heat and transport for the U.K. More information is available here.

The availability of low-cost bulk hydrogen in a gas network could transform the potential for hydrogen vehicles and, via fuel cells, support a decentralised model of combined heat and power and localized power generation.

Leveraging our expertise in hydrogen, reformer technology and CO2capture, Jacobs’ work in this area is not confined to the U.K. We are also providing a feasibility study for Equinorto evaluate the possibilities for building a hydrogen production plant, including CO2 capture, liquefaction and export facilities, at Eemshaven in the Netherlands. The hydrogen will be supplied as fuel to an existing natural gas-fired power plant that will be converted into a hydrogen-fueled power plant designed to lower the plant's carbon emissions at a large scale and to a future hydrogen market via a hydrogen pipeline and storage facilities. The liquefied CO2 will be shipped to Norway for off-shore storage.

Collaboration of expertise, innovation and vision is crucial to accelerating energy transition and developing sustainable economies that are more climate-friendly and less energy-consuming. Our Netherlands operation joined the Dutch Energy Transition Coalition in 2017 as businesses came together to support the acceleration of energy transition across the country.

Hydrogen’s role in the future of transport 

With approximately 70 percent of the world population forecast to live in urban areas by 2050, fast and reliable transport connectivity, both within and between urban areas, is essential for the movement of people and goods, and ensuring geographical distribution of growth. The challenge for city leaders is to lay down the frameworks which allow this development to take place. With city congestion at an all-time high, air pollution is an increasing concern – and hydrogen offers the potential of another alternative as a low-carbon transport fuel in the future. Hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles convert compressed hydrogen into electricity to power the electric motor.

Published last year, Shell’s study5 on the future of hydrogen in the transport sector, jointly produced with the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, said that in 2050, 113 million fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) could save up to 68 million tonnes of fuel and almost 200 million tonnes of carbon emissions, making a significant contribution to reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions in the transport sector.

Exploring hydrogen-powered train technology, for example, Jacobs recently worked on a Hydrail Feasibility Study Report with Metrolinx, a Government of Ontario (GO) agency that manages and integrates regional transportation planning in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. With the support of Ernst & Young Orenda Corporate Finance Inc. and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, the Jacobs-led team determined it is technically feasible to use Hydrogen Fuel Cells (HFCs) as a power source for electrifying the GO rail network, which carries more than 70,000 passengers annually.

Taking the green hydrogen economy one step closer to be circular

The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) also just launched a new project to explore how circular economy approaches can be applied to optimise the efficiency of hydrogen production and stimulate the development of a local oxygen market in Orkney. The project aims to identify potential applications for the commercial use of oxygen and heat as by-products of the hydrogen production process, ultimately developing a circular business model for hydrogen. The work is being supported by Zero Waste Scotland and delivered by Jacobs as part of the circular economy business support service, an initiative supported by funding from both the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund through the $92 million (£73m) Resource Efficient Circular Economy Accelerator Programme.

EMEC has been producing ‘green’ hydrogen since 2017 using renewable energy from local wind and tidal resources to power an electrolyser, splitting water into its chemical components: hydrogen and oxygen. However, the cost of producing hydrogen is high as roughly one third of input energy is lost as oxygen and low-grade heat during production.

This cost is driving business innovation to increase the efficiency and circularity of the process by identifying end applications for heat and oxygen by-products. Local industries such as aquaculture, horticulture, diving, health and aviation all use oxygen as part of daily business. Integrating locally produced oxygen into the supply chain will increase island resiliency and reduce the environmental impact of businesses currently getting oxygen delivered from the U.K. mainland.

How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

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How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

When most people think about oil and natural gas, the first thing that comes to mind is the gas in the tank of their car. But there is actually much more to oil’s role, than meets the eye…

Oil, along with natural gas, has hundreds of different uses in a modern vehicle through petrochemicals.

Today’s infographic comes to us from American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers, and covers why oil is a critical material in making the EV revolution possible.

Pliable Properties

It turns out the many everyday materials we rely on from synthetic rubber to plastics to lubricants all come from petrochemicals.

The use of various polymers and plastics has several advantages for manufacturers and consumers:

  1. Lightweight
  2. Inexpensive
  3. Plentiful
  4. Easy to Shape
  5. Durable
  6. Flame Retardant

Today, plastics can make up to 50% of a vehicle’s volume but only 10% of its weight. These plastics can be as strong as steel, but light enough to save on fuel and still maintain structural integrity.

This was not always the case, as oil’s use has evolved and grown over time.

Not Your Granddaddy’s Caddy

Plastics were not always a critical material in auto manufacturing industry, but over time plastics such as polypropylene and polyurethane became indispensable in the production of cars.

Rolls Royce was one of the first car manufacturers to boast about the use of plastics in its car interior. Over time, plastics have evolved into a critical material for reducing the overall weight of vehicles, allowing for more power and conveniences.


  • 1916
    Rolls Royce uses phenol formaldehyde resin in its car interiors
  • 1941
    Henry Ford experiments with an “all-plastic” car
  • 1960
    About 20 lbs. of plastics is used in the average car
  • 1970
    Manufacturers begin using plastic for interior decorations
  • 1980
    Headlights, bumpers, fenders and tailgates become plastic
  • 2000
    Engineered polymers first appear in semi-structural parts of the vehicle
  • Present
    The average car uses over 1000 plastic parts

Electric Dreams: Petrochemicals for EV Innovation

Plastics and other materials made using petrochemicals make vehicles more efficient by reducing a vehicle’s weight, and this comes at a very reasonable cost.

For every 10% in weight reduction, the fuel economy of a car improves roughly 5% to 7%. EV’s need to achieve weight reductions because the battery packs that power them can weigh over 1000 lbs, requiring more power.

Today, plastics and polymers are used for hundreds of individual parts in an electric vehicle.

Oil and the EV Future

Oil is most known as a source of fuel, but petrochemicals also have many other useful physical properties.

In fact, petrochemicals will play a critical role in the mass adoption of electric vehicles by reducing their weight and improving their ranges and efficiency. In According to IHS Chemical, the average car will use 775 lbs of plastic by 2020.

Although it seems counterintuitive, petrochemicals derived from oil and natural gas make the major advancements by today’s EVs possible – and the continued use of petrochemicals will mean that both EVS and traditional vehicles will become even lighter, faster, and more efficient.