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UK commits to decarbonize country's power system by 2035

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08.10.2021

The UK plans to completely abandon fossil fuels and generate electricity only from renewables and by using nuclear generation by 2035. The phasing out natural gas is motivated not only by environmental issues but also by the quest for greater energy independence.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made it official: the government will bring forward the ban on the sale of cars with combustion engines by five years to 2030. This measure is part of a new ten-point plan for a «green industrial revolution».

The government's environmental plan envisages reserving a key role in nuclear power. It is estimated that the construction of a new large nuclear power plant in Suffolk will create up to 10,000 jobs. Besides, it has been stipulated that new houses may no longer be equipped with fossil fuel gas heating systems as early as 2023. By 2028, 600,000 heat pumps are to be installed to heat buildings.

The UK Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng stressed that nuclear power must be developed on a par with renewable energy, given it will be impossible to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 without it.

Currently, the UK remains heavily reliant on gas with 38% of electricity demand being met by the fuel. The government says that nuclear is a key part of reaching net zero but plans to get new projects built have been slow with financing a sticking point. Prime Minister Boris Johnson committed in December to supporting at least one large-scale nuclear project by 2025 and has been in talks with Electricite de France SA for almost 10 months trying to hammer out a deal.

The UK was successful in cutting emissions with a bold move to phase out coal by 2024. That spurred investment in clean sources of power and more than half of the electricity now comes from low-carbon sources.

Power demand is expected to be at least one third higher by 2035 as electrification drives decarbonization in other sector. «It will be difficult to achieve unless we find a credible and realistic plan to produce power when the wind does not blow,» Jones said.

Within a month, the British government should formulate a strategy for how the UK will achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. A national heating decarbonization plan is also expected to be announced.

Legislation is planned as soon as next month for a funding mechanism to spur the construction of new nuclear power plants to replace its aging fleet of reactors. The government said it will support large-scale projects and small and advanced modular reactors too.

As for other important points of the «green government program», Johnson noted that to support the transition to e-mobility, the British government is pledging to invest 1.3 billion pounds (1.45 billion euros) to expand the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. 

The government also plans to support the series production of electric car batteries and to modernize power systems in the aviation and maritime sectors.

The production of both green hydrogen (made from renewables) and grey and blue hydrogen (produced by means of fossil fuels)  is to be supported with 500 million pounds. The UK government envisages a town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.

Most countries around the world are well aware that with increasing demand for electricity, it is no longer possible to procrastinate with decarbonization, and it is impossible to reach net-zero emissions without nuclear energy. Therefore, it is necessary to develop and update nuclear generation. Thus, the United Arab Emirates launched the first Barakah nuclear power plant this year, Slovakia has completed the Mochovce nuclear power plant, while Pakistan's Karachi NPP will soon have two more units. Poland has announced its intention to start construction of nuclear power plants no later than 2030 – at least six power units are planned to be built.

Ukraine has already made a significant contribution to  decarbonization – over the years of independence, due to the operation of 15 nuclear power units it managed to prevent emissions of about 3 bln tons of CO2. At present, Ukraine's nuclear generation continues to successfully supply more than half of all electricity at the lowest price compared to other producers, in addition, without greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy strategy of Ukraine until 2035 considers nuclear power plants as the most efficient low-carbon energy source. The share of nuclear generation in the country's power balance is expected to increase up to 60%.

Energoatom is already taking decisive steps to replace and build a nuclear fleet. To this end, NNEGC signed a memorandum with the US Westinghouse electric on the joint construction of a new power unit at the Khmelnytskyy NPP as a pilot project, followed by four new power units at all sites of Ukrainian NPPs.

«We should start constructing new nuclear facilities as soon as possible, because there is almost no time left to fight climate change,» Energoatom’s head Petro Kotin is convinced. «Pre-construction activities are underway at KhNPP.  Moreover, Energoatom’s specialists are studying new sites characteristics for the construction of new nuclear power plants.»