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8. Energy Supply

Energy Supply

Increasing renewables, introducing flexibility and capturing carbon

In 2018, 62% of Devon’s greenhouse gas emissions related to energy use in the form of electricity and fossil fuel in buildings, manufacturing and construction activity, and transport. 1

8.1  What needs to happen?

The evidence provided at the Thematic Hearings indicated that four key transformations are needed to decarbonise the energy we all use:

  1. Use less energy. We need to reduce demand for energy and use what we really need as efficiently as possible 
  2. Transition to renewables. The energy we do use needs to be from renewable sources (e.g. wind, solar, biofuel) 
  3. Flexibility and storage. We need to be able to store electricity and use it more flexibly.

Carbon Capture and storage. Where small amounts of fossil fuels continue to be used, the carbon emitted needs to be captured and permanently stored to prevent it from reaching the atmosphere. 

8.1.1 Use Less Energy

Buildings

Devon needs a high take-up of energy-efficiency measures across its 581,000 homes and its commercial and industrial premises. These technological changes must be combined with enhancing awareness and understanding of energy issues so that behaviour and accepted social norms are changed to help avoid wasting energy and use it more efficiently. These measures are discussed in detail in the Built Environment section of this Plan. 

Transport

Using less energy for our transport requirements starts with reducing the need to travel. If the journey is necessary then we must consider using active travel (walking and cycling), buses and trains, shared mobility schemes and taxis (for the first or last mile of a journey), particularly in more urban areas. Private vehicle use will continue, more so for journeys within rural areas and between rural and urban centres; for these, electrification of vehicles will reduce energy demand because an electric vehicle is over four times more efficient than a petrol or diesel car. 2 However, it is important that petrol and diesel vehicles are not just swapped for electric vehicles due to their resource demands, for instance their use of minerals such as cobalt for battery production. Realising wider behavioural changes towards active travel will also allow for many co-benefits to be realised including to the health and wellbeing 3 of Devon’s residents, which a transition solely to EV would not bring forward. These measures are discussed in detail in the Transport section of this Plan.

8.1.2 Transition to Renewables

In 2018, seven percent of the total energy used in Devon for electricity, heat and transport was met by renewable sources.4 This needs to rise to near 100% by 2050

The Committee on Climate Change scenario for 20505 principally advocates electrification of energy (heat and transport) needs. This includes replacing existing vehicles with electric alternatives (instead of petrol or diesel), using heat pumps for heating buildings  (instead of gas or oil) and the use of hydrogen production by electrolysis to power heavy goods vehicles, off-road machinery and some industrial processes. 

Switching all our heating from fossil fuels to electrically operated heat pumps, and our motorised transport requirements to battery-electric cars and hydrogen heavy goods vehicles is estimated to increase Devon’s electricity consumption by about 2.5 times 2018 levels. If Devon were to generate all this new demand within its boundary, approximately eight times more renewable electricity generating capacity would need to be installed on rooftops and through field-scale projects.

In reality this increased need for renewable electricity capacity will be met in part through nationally significant infrastructure, such as new offshore wind farms, Government’s plans for modular nuclear reactors, and in later decades through innovative new technologies, such as wave and tidal energy projects. Devon is a maritime county, the only county with two separate coastlines, and shipyards at Appledore and Plymouth possess marine engineering capabilities and skills that are immediately transferable into offshore energy technologies.7 The strong potential this position offers and the opportunity to replicate the jobs, supply chain and regional economic benefits that offshore wind has brought to the East of England must be seized. Devon Climate Emergency partners can facilitate the provision of the necessary onshore infrastructure, such as enhanced port infrastructure, cable landings and electricity distribution and transmission equipment, by continuing to be engaged in regional partnerships innovating in this sector, for example the Great South West floating offshore wind initiative. 

Additionally, hybrid heating systems could be appropriate for buildings on the gas network and biomass boilers for buildings off the gas network. Hybrid heating systems use a combination of a heat pump with a boiler fired with green gases (e.g. methane derived from anaerobic digestion or hydrogen from electrolysis) delivered through the existing gas network. These technologies, alongside nationally significant infrastructure, will help reduce the need for new electricity generating capacity.

District heating (systems that distribute hot water, heated by centralised power plants, in a network8 of highly-insulated pipes to a collection of buildings) supplied by renewable energy also has a role in reducing the need for new electrification too. These must be considered for all large-scale new developments where the distribution pipes and energy centre can be designed in from the outset, or retrofitted in areas of high heat density, such as industrial estates or urban centres.

8.1.3 Flexibility and Electricity Storage

Some renewable energy technologies depend on weather and the seasons – most notably solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind turbines. Solar PV generates electricity during daylight hours and provides most in the middle of the day and summer. Wind turbines generate electricity when the wind is blowing, 24 hours a day, and generally more so in autumn and winter. These periods of generation don’t necessarily match the times of higher demand for electricity.  Greater deployment of renewable energy technologies combined with uncertainty about how demand for electricity is changing is creating new challenges for distribution system operators.9

Making best use of renewable resources will need the ability to match the natural variability of renewable energy output with demand by creating improved flexibility and storage of generated energy. The roll out of smart meters that communicate real-time consumption to households and the introduction of flexible, real-time tariffs will encourage people to change behaviour to use electricity when energy supply is higher and demand has traditionally been lower rather than at times when demand is high. Storage solutions, such as batteries connected to the electricity grid, can store energy when supply exceeds demand so that it can be deployed to people when required.

Deploying flexibility services and storage technologies will reduce the amount of new renewable energy capacity required – making best use of the resource, reducing investment costs and avoiding the need for fossil-fuel powered peaking plants. 

8.1.4 Carbon Capture and Storage

The Committee on Climate Change believes that using CCS technology will be a necessity, not an option, for the UK to reach net-zero carbon.5 Large manufacturing and construction industries will need to switch their processes to low-carbon energy sources or make use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology wherever possible, although these industries only account for less than 1% of the County’s emissions. The Energy from Waste facilities in Devon (which emit 2% of Devon’s emissions) will also need to make use of CCS to decarbonise the electricity and heat they currently provide.

CCS can also be used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by capturing the carbon emitted from using biomass (e.g. maize or willow) for energy; by doing so, between 70% and 100% (dependent on the type of feedstock) of the carbon dioxide that was absorbed from the atmosphere when the biofuel was growing is permanently captured10 and so achieves negative emissions. This ‘bioenergy with CCS’ is one of the pillars of the National Farmers’ Union’s net-zero goal for 204011 for the agricultural sector. This approach can be used to offset emissions from other economic sectors that will find it very challenging to decarbonise, too.

8.1.5 Diagram of Energy Supply Actions

Energy Supply
Figure 8.3 showing the action prioritisation scores, who the action should involve, where it should take place and its financial status

8.1.6 Priority Actions

 E1. Develop an energy strategy for Devon to deploy renewable energy generation.

8.2 Opportunities and Benefits

8.3 Key Outcomes

8.4 Goal: Develop a shared ambition for renewable energy generation in Devon

8.5 Opportunity for Discussion at the Citizens’ Assembly – Onshore wind energy

8.6 Goal: Overcome constraints on the electricity grid

8.7 Goal: Make the necessary transformations to the energy system financially attractive

8.8 Goal: Take opportunities to pilot carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Devon

8.9 Action Summary Table for Energy Supply

8.10 References

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