The Future Role of Natural Gas in the UK

Can gas, by substituting for coal, act as a ‘bridging fuel’ to a low-carbon UK energy system and, if so, how much gas use does such a bridge entail, and over what period of time1? These are the questions which are addressed in this report.


The UK has statutory greenhouse gas emission reduction targets through to 2050, which mandates an 80% reduction in emissions by that date from the level in 1990. Meeting this target cost-effectively will require at least a similar reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the UK energy system by that date. Natural gas has significantly lower CO2 emissions on combustion per unit of energy delivered than either coal or oil, but higher emissions than nuclear and most renewable energy sources.


Questions therefore arise about the role of gas as the UK seeks to move cost-effectively towards a low-carbon energy system. How much gas use is compatible with meeting the UK’s carbon emissions reductions targets? How is this affected by whether carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) is available?


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