The UK has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% over the next 35 years.1 Balancing supply with demand while achieving this reduction is extremely challenging. Play the UK government’s ‘My 2050’ to see if you can do it.2
Renewable energy (wind, solar and bioenergy) surpassed coal for the first time in supplying the UK’s electricity for a whole quarter, according to government statistics released in September.3 However, no one fuel source provides all the answers; renewables are costly per unit of output and are intermittent. Nuclear power can provide a large part of the base load of our energy mix due to its high energy density – the amount of electricity you can generate in a given volume. That is why the UK government has committed to new nuclear build; so that we can reduce carbon emissions while still making sure that there is a big enough supply of energy to keep our lights on. Improvements in energy efficiency and a diverse energy mix encompassing renewables, along with nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage will help to ensure low-carbon, secure, affordable electricity for the UK.
1 Policy paper: 2010 to 2015 government policy: greenhouse gas emissions. Department of Energy & Climate Change (2013)
Carolyn Pearce is a Research Fellow at The University Of Manchester