'Green' electricity to help UK meet 2050 carbon emissions target

November 25, 2008

Extensive use of low-carbon "green" electricity could help the UK dramatically cut its carbon emissions by 2050, say the leaders of a new research programme to be announced this week at Imperial College London.

Large-scale use of low-carbon electricity is one technological innovation that Imperial researchers will be developing in the new 'Planet 2050' programme, being set up to help develop the radical approaches needed to achieve the large-scale global emissions reductions sought by 2050. The UK Committee on Climate Change recommended in October 2008 that the UK should aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. In the same timeframe, global emissions will need to fall by at least 50 percent.

Journalists are invited to find out more about Planet 2050 at Imperial at 6pm on Thursday 27 November 2008.

The programme brings together scientists and engineers from Imperial to work on new technologies that can help the UK dramatically reduce its carbon emissions. One element is the 'Electric Futures' project which will explore the use of low carbon electricity to meet a large part of the UK's energy needs, in particular to replace liquid fuels for ground transport and natural gas for heating buildings.

Low carbon electricity is produced using methods that emit minimal carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These could include wind, tidal, solar or nuclear power, and even fossil fuel or biomass burning power stations that have been designed to capture the emitted carbon dioxide for storage deep underground.

The scientific and engineering challenges associated with a low-carbon all-electric economy are significant, because the current electricity supply system could not cope if most cars and homes in the UK relied on it for energy.

At the Planet 2050 launch event, researchers from Imperial's Grantham Institute for Climate Change, and Energy Futures Lab will explain how the technical problems can be overcome and invite audience members to imagine what life would be like in 40 years if the 80% carbon emissions reduction target is achieved.

Professor Nigel Brandon, Director of Imperial's Energy Futures Lab, explains:

"A lot needs to be done over the next few decades to develop new ways of producing and supplying electricity, and to investigate how it could be used to replace the gas in our homes and petrol in our cars.

"At Imperial we have a large number of researchers working on technologies to provide solutions. 'Planet 2050' brings them together and, through 'Electric Futures' and other projects, builds on their existing work to help achieve significant carbon reductions over the next 40 years."

Speakers at the launch event will focus on topics including:The event will also include an introductory talk by Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial, who will outline the climate motivation for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Nearly 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are due to CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use. Sir Brian, who is also a member of the UK Committee on Climate Change, stresses that big reductions in all sources of CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are necessary:

"If we are to meet the UK carbon reduction targets by 2050, we need to tackle this 60 percent through a transformation of our energy and transport systems and other infrastructure," says Sir Brian. "The ambitious and visionary research that the 'Planet 2050' programme will deliver will be vital in helping shape an effective and affordable response to the climate challenge."
-end-
The launch event will take place in 170 Queen's Gate, Imperial College London at 6pm on Thursday 27 November. Journalists wishing to attend must register in advance by contacting:

Danielle Reeves, Imperial College London press office
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2198
Out-of-hours duty press office: +44 (0)7803 886248
Email: Danielle.reeves@imperial.ac.uk

Imperial College London

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