Design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins believes 6,520 offshore wind turbines will be needed in the UK if it is to reach the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) Net Zero target
In an analysis of power sector needs, Atkins said that in addition to thousands of offshore wind turbines, in the next three decades the UK will need to build 48 natural gas units, 66 biomass facilities, and six nuclear power stations.
Atkins calculated that the UK is currently only achieving 43% of the required build rate and believes the future energy system will rely heavily on three industries still in their infancy – carbon capture and storage (CCS), energy storage and hydrogen production.
It also believes that a government ‘Energy System Architect’ is essential to bring risk-based engineering judgement and create an optimal, reliable and balanced system.
In a whitepaper titled Race to Net Zero, Atkins based its analysis on the CCC Net Zero scenario which estimates the UK needs to build 9 to 12 GW per year, for the next 30 years, and predicts power in 2050 will be generated by nuclear (11%); wind and solar (58%); combined cycle gas turbines with carbon capture storage (22%); and bioenergy with carbon capture storage (6%).
The whitepaper also concludes that these percentages will be subject to change due to factors including a higher need for low carbon firm power, rising system costs and industrial capability.
Atkins’ whitepaper – which builds on its comprehensive Engineering Net Zero report – also highlights the major challenges of creating significant CCS, energy storage and hydrogen production capacity, and calls for urgent government investment to ensure the required built rate can be achieved and any risk of relying on new technologies can be assessed.
Atkins market director for generation assets Dr David Cole said, “Market intervention in the UK offshore wind industry saw the cost of construction and electricity come down, resulting in the UK now being a global leader in deploying renewables. Similar intervention is now required across nuclear, new technologies and other energy sources so that the UK energy industry can construct the above number of facilities in enough time.
“We must replace almost all our current generating capacity and build as much again, and to put this context, the highest we have reached was 6 GW in 2012 of gas and renewables infrastructure. The longer we wait, the higher these number will rise.
“In the midst of a global crisis, it can be overwhelming to think of future targets, but climate change is not going to fade away and 30 years is not a long time. We must act now and the government must act now.”