The National Grid’s “emissions negative” plan for electricity is a work of fantasy – and a dangerous one at that

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Summer must have arrived. Crazy ideas are in the air. I just finished writing a blog about the wholly inappropriate and regressive tax that the government is proposing to use to tackle the problem of funding long-term social care when I noticed that the National Grid is also in today’s favoured business of promoting fantastic solutions to real problems.

The Guardian notes this morning that:

Carbon emissions from Britain’s electricity system could turn negative by as early as 2033 if the UK uses carbon capture technology alongside more renewable energy to reach its climate targets, according to a report from National Grid.

The electricity network operator on Monday set out its vision for an “emissions negative” grid that would include 30m electric vehicles on UK roads, and 8m heat pumps used to replace gas boilers in energy-efficient homes.

In National Grid’s most progressive vision for Britain’s pathway towards its 2050 climate targets it claims that net carbon emissions from the electricity sector could turn negative within 13 years by using carbon capture technology alongside bioenergy sources.

My heart sank when reading this. I do, of course, want to see an ”emissions negative” grid, but what is being proposed here is not a solution. There are several good reasons for saying that.

First, this proposal relies upon carbon capture and storage, and as yet no one has any real idea how to do this. The proposal is, then, from the world of make-believe. It has absolutely no credibility.

Second, the proposal relies upon building substantial numbers of new battery electric cars, which are not our likely transport solution. They’re expensive, heavy, inappropriate for current needs and replicate existing emission problems with things like tires and brakes.

Third, relying on bioenergy ignores the fact that we have a biodiversity crisis that is at least as big as the climate crisis.

This plan is, to be kind to it, ridiculous. It is as undeliverable as it is fantastic, in the sense of being unreal. When the climate crisis is the biggest issues that we face on earth I would have hoped for something better from the National Grid. This plan needs extensive reworking before it gets anywhere near a pass mark.