Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Global Carbon Emissions Could Be Cut 3 Percent by Following the UK's Example

Tampa Electric wants to convert 1,700 MW coal plant to gas (Credit: Wikimedia)  Click to Enlarge.
The UK cut its emissions from electricity production by 25% in 2016, using a strategy many countries could adopt to quickly lower carbon emissions.

The UK achieved an unprecedented drop in carbon emissions in 2016 by making full use of natural gas over coal.  Changes in the way electricity is generated meant the average Briton saved 400 kg of carbon dioxide -- equivalent to taking 1 in 3 of the country's cars off the road.

This saving came from using natural gas in preference to coal in power stations.  Natural gas produces less than half the carbon dioxide of coal when burned.  The UK has switched off many of its older coal plants, and government policy means it is now cheaper to burn gas than coal.

A new report published Monday by researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Sheffield shows that global carbon emissions could be cut by one gigatonne per year (3% of global emissions) in less than five years if other countries followed the same strategy.

Crucially, the strategy does not rely on building new gas infrastructure or increasing supply; only using existing infrastructure to its full capacity.

Co-author of the new report, Dr Iain Staffell from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial, said:  "Switching from coal to gas is not a long-term solution, but it is an important step to start reducing emissions quickly and at minimal cost.  This will give us time to build up the required renewable energy capacity to permanently cut global carbon emissions."

Co-author Dr Grant Wilson, from Energy2050 at the University of Sheffield, said:  "Having a longer-term view, it is likely to prove vastly cheaper not to emit a tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere over the near-term, rather than to have to take it back out of the atmosphere after 2050.

"This is especially the case if the infrastructure has already been built but is underutilised.  This report suggests that the option of fuel switching in the power sector deserves greater consideration to reduce emissions."

The study found that the UK's success was based partly on having the capacity and supply chain available to allow the switch from coal to gas, but that the government's carbon pricing policy was the biggest driver.

In the UK, carbon pricing -- charging those who emit carbon dioxide -- has become much stronger in recent years, making it more profitable for power companies to use natural gas generation rather than coal.  This is helping the UK meet its commitment to be the world's first country to transition completely from coal generation by 2025, and to keep its coal resources unburnt in the ground.

Read more at Global Carbon Emissions Could Be Cut 3 Percent by Following the UK's Example

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