Steve Pye is a principal research associate at the UCL Energy Institute, specialising in energy systems analysis. Gas is hugely important for meeting the energy needs of the UK. In 2016, it was used to produce more than 40% of the total electricity generated and was the primary source of heating for around 85% of UK households (23m). Yet there is a crucial question as to whether gas, which accounts for more than a third of UK emissions, can continue to play a role in the provision of energy, given the UK’s current climate ambition and the need to increase that ambition following the Paris Agreement. Recent analysis by the Tyndall Centre suggests its role will be extremely limited, due to the limited remaining carbon budget, lack of progress on carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the potential for fugitive emissions of methane from the gas sector. It concludes that in Europe: “Fossil fuels (including natural gas) have no substantial role in an EU 2C energy system beyond 2035.” In our new paper, published in the journal Energy Policy with Christophe McGladeand colleagues in the UK Energy Research Centre, we explore whether gas could act as a “bridge”, helping the UK shift to a low-emission energy system, because it could displace fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, which have higher emissions per unit of energy. The paper also assesses whether gas has any significant role to play in the longer term. Reinvesting in or making new investments in gas infrastructure risks locking in fossil fuels, the use of which may not be compatible with the emission reductions needed. Our paper finds that gas is unlikely to play a major bridging role.
Carbon Brief 5th Dec 2017 read more »