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Decarbonisation revolution risks creating 'two-tier Britain'

Carbon emissions

The decarbonisation of the UK’s power sector risks creating regional divisions across the country, according to a report commissioned by Drax. 

While the report, Energising Britain, conducted by researchers from E4tech and Imperial College London, praised the rapid decarbonisation of the power sector as a ‘‘feather in the UK’s cap’’ it warned that ‘‘Britain risks creating a two tier energy system”.

The UK’s carbon budgets require major decarbonisation of energy supply, with virtually all energy generated by clean sources by 2050. However, the push for clean energy risks deepening regional divides in the United Kingdom, with London standing apart as less affluent regions risk failing behind, according to the report.

The report states that unless specific issues are dealt with, the progress towards renewables risks creating a nation where “some get ahead with the fuels and technologies of the future, while others are left behind with the higher costs, environmental and health problems that come from burning legacy fossil fuels.”

One of these issues is that investment in clean energy is weighted towards southern regions. For example, the UK’s last remaining coal-fired power stations are in Yorkshire, the Midlands, the North West and Wales. Whereas no thermal generation plants remain in London.

Another is access to electric vehicle infrastructure. In London the average distance from a household to a charging point is 0.8km, whereas in the Midlands this rises to 3km and in Wales 3.7km.

Access to electric vehicle infrastructure is more limited in Northern Regions

Access to electric vehicle infrastructure is more limited in Northern Regions

Source: Drax report ‘Energising Britain’

Access to electric vehicle infrastructure is more limited in Northern Regions

Drax Group chief executive Will Gardiner said in the report that a revolution to a zero-carbon system was underway in the sector but that failure to address the energy divide carries serious consequence.

“A revolution is taking place across our energy system,” he said. “There is clear evidence that once again a divide is opening between those parts of the country where people are better placed to take advantage of new technologies – and those who are not. The conclusion is clear: Failure to address these energy divides will leave some communities falling behind.”

Such consequences will not be limited to those directly affected either, with wider implications for the nation. Gardiner added: “It will restrict our businesses’ ability to compete in a fierce global economy. And our efforts to tackle climate change will be hindered.” 

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