Say Goodbye To Gas
By Paul Homewood
We looked yesterday at Bob Ward’s suggestion that gas heating and cooking would need to be rapidly phased out by the 2030’s, if carbon targets were to be met. How close is he to the truth?
Let’s have a look at the GHG numbers from DECC, which are only available up to 2013 at the moment. Gummer’s Committee on Climate Change is already pressing for a cut, from 1990 levels, of 57% for the Fifth Carbon Plan, which runs 2028-32. Let us therefore assume a target of 63% for the next five year period; this would keep us on line for 80% decarbonisation by 2050.
DECC have a number of interesting charts in their Greenhouse Gas Emissions Statistical Release.
The first shows how most of the reduction in emissions to date has been from Non CO2 gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide.
Figure 3 reveals that energy supply only accounts for 33% of total emissions. It follows that, even if we could totally decarbonise the power sector, there would still need to be big cuts in other sectors.
Since 1990, the energy supply sector has reduced emissions by 89 MtCO2e, equivalent to 11% of total GHG.
Now let’s take a closer look at the other sectors:
(Changes in the other two sectors, public sector and LULUCF, are small).
Emission savings in agriculture have levelled off in the last few years, so it is difficult seeing any further significant change, which leaves the three main sectors: transport, business and residential.
There have been reductions in business, much no doubt due to a smaller manufacturing sector. But even here emissions have remained stable since 2009, suggesting that, short of industrial capacity being slashed, there is little likelihood of further substantial savings.
Meanwhile it is pretty much as you were in the transport and residential sectors.
So we have a dilemma.
We can look at GHG emissions in another way, by fuel:
Emissions of CO2 from coal amounted to 121 MtCO2 in 2013. But, according to DECC, only 82% went into electricity generation. So once all coal power production is ceased, we would see a reduction of 99 MtCO2.
Currently, GHG emissions are 568 MtCO2e, and a 63% targeted cut from 1990 levels would mean 299 MtCO2e. Therefore eliminating coal from the mix would still leave us at 469 MtCO2e, a long way from the target for 2035.
What about electricity generated from gas? According to DECC, this only accounts for 31% of total gas consumption, implying emissions of 57 MtCO2e. Even if we found a way of running the electricity grid with no coal or gas, we would still be looking at emissions of 412 MtCO2e, still way above target.
So where will the axe fall? It is reasonable to assume that the low hanging fruit has already been picked, and that there is limited scope for any further reduction in non CO2 gases.
Which leaves transport and domestic heating. Combined GHG emissions in these two sectors totalled 194 MtCO2e in 2013. To get from 412 to 299 MtCO2e, this figure would have to fall to 81 MtCO2e. And this all assumes that the electricity supply system can cope with no gas fired generation, and a massive increase in demand from decarbonised transport and heating.
So it all looks as if we can kiss goodbye to our gas cookers and boilers, not to mention our cars!
1) GHG emissions from DECC
2) Energy statistics from DECC