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Delivering Net Zero through the UK's energy networks

In the year the UK hosts the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP 26, find out how our energy networks are at the heart of delivering Net Zero emissions

Glasgow, Scotland
Credit: Unsplash/Artur Kraft

Delivering the Prime Minister's Ten Point Plan

The Prime Minister’s recent Ten Point Plan for climate action was the most significant policy intervention for the energy industry in nearly ten years, and the UK’s energy networks will be the foundation on which it is delivered.

This has been given even more impetus by the announcement of a new emissions reduction target as well as the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Budget – a route map to Net Zero emissions.

  • Offshore wind

    Prime Minister's commitment

    Producing enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we produce to 40GW by 2030, supporting up to 60,000 jobs.

    What the UK's energy networks are doing

    Electricity transmission network operators are already exploring the consolidation of offshore connections to minimise disruption onshore and exciting work is underway on hybrid interconnectors, making networks smarter, and projects to use excess wind to produce hydrogen.

  • Hydrogen

    Prime Minister's plan

    Working with industry aiming to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.

    What the UK's energy networks are doing

    The UK’s network operators have helped keep the UK at the top of the global race for hydrogen and this needs to continue. Exciting green innovation projects have been taking place such as H100 – the creation of the UK’s first hydrogen town, Hydeploy, HyNet, H21 and many others. A hydrogen bonanza will help support a green economic recovery, create jobs and slash carbon emissions all whilst ensuring the UK remains a world leader in green industrial strategy.

  • Nuclear

    Prime Minister's plan

    Advancing nuclear as a clean energy source, across large scale nuclear and developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors, which could support 10,000 jobs.

    What the UK's energy networks are doing

    More nuclear energy can help to provide stability to the electricity system – the transmission network operators are building the connections for new nuclear projects whilst also making the most of existing infrastructure.

  • Electric vehicles (EVs)

    Prime Minister's plan

    Backing our world-leading car manufacturing bases including in the West Midlands, North East and North Wales to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and transforming our national infrastructure to better support electric vehicles (EVs).

    What the UK's energy networks are doing

    The electricity network operators have a key role to play in supporting infrastructure an innovation for a mass roll-out of electric vehicles. Ground-breaking pilot projects are underway for vehicle-to-grid smart charging as well as further digitalisation of the connections process. The networks have developed clear guidance for anyone looking to invest in their own electric vehicle, whether an individual customer or a fleet-operating business.

  • Public transport, cycling and walking

    Prime Minister's plan

    Making cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and investing in zero-emission public transport of the future.

    What the UK's energy networks are doing

    Network operators already support electric and hydrogen buses and will continue to as we accelerate on the Road to Zero. The network operators will support more hydrogen and further electrification of public transport in all its forms including trains powered by hydrogen.

  • Jet Zero and greener maritime

    Prime Minister's plan

    Supporting difficult-to-decarbonise industries to become greener through research projects for zero-emission planes and ships.

    What the UK's energy networks are doing

    Green innovation is already under way to see how hydrogen and further electrification can be used in shipping and aviation.

  • Homes and public buildings

    Prime Minister's plan

    Making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.

    What the UK's energy networks are doing

    We are already seeing innovation lead to greener homes and this is set to continue as more heat pumps are installed and hydrogen-ready boilers come to market. Network operators have exciting trial projects that will help this develop safely, speedily and at least cost to the consumer.

  • Carbon capture

    Prime Minister's plan

    Becoming a world-leader in technology to capture and store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to all emissions of the industrial Humber today.

    What the UK's energy networks are doing

    Blue hydrogen is forecast to have a clear and important role within the UK’s mix, so carbon capture will be critical. Gas network operators’ green innovation projects like HyNet show the opportunities that blending can offer in driving the growth of this industry of the future.

  • Nature

    Prime Minister's plan

    Protecting and restoring our natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs.

    What the UK's energy networks are doing

    As well as undergrounding cables in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, network operators are reducing their own business carbon footprint, and undertaking rewilding and afforestation projects across the UK. The networks also work to ensure that the trees around our pylons and infrastructure are well looked after and are spearheading efforts to minimise the continued spread of Ash die-back.

  • Innovation and finance

    Prime Ministers plan

    Developing the cutting-edge technologies needed to reach these new energy ambitions and make the City of London the global centre of green finance.

    What the UK's energy networks are doing

    The UK has always been able to attract investment to the green economy. The networks have invested more than £100bn since 1990 and this is set to continue over the coming years, providing the regulatory system matches policy ambition. Network operators have supported both world-leading flexibility markets and hydrogen innovation and are now readying the country for the seismic shift to fully decarbonised heat, transport and power.

"Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines of Scotland and the North East, propelled by the electric vehicles made in the Midlands and advanced by the latest technologies developed in Wales, so we can look ahead to a more prosperous, greener future."

Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister

Supporting net-zero emissions

Climate change is the defining issue of our time and the energy network companies are playing a crucial role in delivering the UK's 2050 net-zero emissions target (and 2045 in Scotland).

Private enterprise has already made the UK a world-leader in connecting smarter, cleaner and reliable renewable energy sources. We need to build on these innovations with stable, long-term investment, as quickly as possible, to reach net-zero emissions.

The energy network companies are woven into the fabric of the country and have shown their ability to successfully deliver risk management, innovation, performance and value for money for all.

What is ‘net zero’?

The UK Government has set a target for our country to reach net-zero emissions emissions by the year 2050, with the Scottish Government committing to 2045. This means that any greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity must be balanced out by methods of removing emissions from the atmosphere, such as planting trees, or carbon capture technologies.

How are Britain’s energy network companies helping us get to net-zero emissions?

Britain’s energy network companies have a leading role to play in helping reach our net-zero emissions target, by connecting greater levels of renewable energy whilst providing the new infrastructure we need to cut our carbon emissions in new areas, such as heat and transport. We're doing this through the likes of our Open Networks and Gas Goes Green projects.

We can’t risk any disruption or delay

The UK economy will need to spend between 1-2% of its total wealth each year to reach net-zero emissions on time. This means significant long-term, stable and sustained investment, without delay or disruption, to ensure the safe keeping of our environment.

"The UK’s energy network operators have already helped turn the UK into a superpower of renewable energy, we're now supercharging this, taking that decarbonisation further and faster in support of Net Zero emissions."

David Smith, Chief Executive
Energy Networks Association

Reaching net-zero emissions

  • A superpower of renewable energy

    Private investment has helped make Britain a superpower of renewable energy. Let’s build on that to reach net-zero emissions as quickly as possible.

    Redesigning the way our grids work will enable us to connect even more renewable energy projects, more quickly than ever.

    We are rolling out new, local energy markets that use the latest smart energy technologies in homes and businesses to allow us to make our grids more capable.

    The disruption of implementing state ownership will undermine Britain’s world leading progress in this area – just at the point when the speed of that progress is more critical than ever.

  • The approach to climate change must be local and national

    The decarbonised energy future is as much local as it is national. Our cities, towns and communities need to be on the front-line of fighting climate change.

    Energy networks are part of the fabric of every region in the country – they are regional companies playing a national role. Network companies are already working with communities and local governments to tackle climate change – and we want to explore new ways to work more closely.

    To deliver deeper levels of decarbonisation we will need to make our local energy grids more capable to connect more renewable energy – we are already undertaking that work.

    This will help create new smart energy markets for households, businesses and communities.

  • Private investment will get us to net-zero emissions

    We need private investment in our energy infrastructure to reach our net-zero emissions target as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

    Reaching our net-zero emissions target will require significant long-term, stable and sustained investment from our economy – wherever that money might come from. Britain’s network companies are proven in their ability to successfully deliver risk management, innovation, performance and value for money.

    Significant disruption to the energy networks would delay the urgent progress towards net-zero emissions.

    Taking the energy network companies into public ownership would put Britain’s net-zero emissions target at risk. The money spent nationalising Britain’s energy networks could be spent on investing in new wind farms or nuclear power plants instead.

    State ownership will come at a cost to other important public services, such as healthcare and education.

    Time is running out. Let’s not waste it on scrapping what works and starting again.

  • A relentless focus on innovation

    We need to be relentless in our focus on innovation to deliver net-zero emissions as quickly as possible, and reap the benefits that it can deliver. No-one does that better than private enterprise.

    Private enterprise is key to delivering innovation – in terms of approach to risk management and taking advantage of new technologies to deliver a more capable grid.

    The lessons we’ve learnt from connecting record amounts of renewable energy are vital to connecting the new technologies we need to reach the net-zero emissions target.

  • Delivering results requires investment

    Private investment in our energy infrastructure is vital. Dividends paid out by network companies secure vital long-term, stable and sustained investment.

    The profits that energy networks make support greater investment in our energy infrastructure and are vital if Britain is to meet the challenge of net-zero emissions.

    Dividends have delivered huge levels of investment that have been good for bill payers, good for the environment and good for the country.

    Dividends paid out by network companies benefit us all – from retired coal miners and teachers to families looking to invest their hard-earned cash. Millions of Britons have invested their pensions in British energy networks, contributing to this vital infrastructure while saving for their futures.

    Profits from energy will – and should – be subject to scrutiny, particularly as we continue the debate around how our society and economy carries the cost of reaching net-zero emissions. However, quoting total figures without the context of the investment poured back into the networks, the impact this has already had and its contribution to us meeting our net-zero emissions targets does not provide the full picture.

  • A track record of providing a vital public service

    No person should be left behind by decarbonisation. Britain’s network companies may be private, but they have a great track record of delivering a vital public service.

    Britain’s energy network companies have a universal obligation of service to every man, woman and child in Britain. They are considered to be some of the best in the world in terms of their performance for the public – not just in terms operational performance but in fulfilling their social obligations.

    Because our energy networks are structured around long-term investments, network companies have a vested interest in the long-term future and act responsibly on that basis.

    Investment by networks benefits us all – networks pay returns to pensioners who used to work as teachers, coal miners.